The state Department of Health has confirmed the first case of rat lungworm disease on Oahu this year.
Department officials said this morning that toddler became ill this month and was hospitalized. Staff conducted an investigation where laboratory tests confirmed the child had the rat lungworm disease parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, in the toddler’s spinal fluid.
This is the first confirmed case of the diseased contracted on Oahu this year and the fourth confirmed case statewide in 2018.
In a news release, state health director Dr. Virginia Pressler said, “Young children explore the world around them by putting things in their mouths as a natural part of their early development.”
“As parents and caregivers, we can help ensure their safety by being mindful of where our children play and what they may be putting in their mouths. The risk of rat lungworm disease exists statewide and we can all take steps to help prevent it by working together to reduce the risks in our own communities,” she said.
Rat lungworm disease, which comes from parasitic roundworms, can be debilitating and affects the brain and spinal cord. In the islands, most people have become ill by accidentally ingesting an infected snail or slug. The most common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness, with neurological problems, severe pain, and long-term disability in serious cases.
Department officials remind the public of the following tips to prevent rat lungworm disease:
>> Inspect, wash and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.
>> Wash all fruits and vegetables under clean, running water to remove any tiny slugs or snails. Pay close attention to leafy greens.
>> Control snail, slug, and rat populations around homes, gardens and farms. Get rid of them safely by using traps and baits and always wear gloves for safety.
For more information, visit: http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/disease_listing/rat-lungworm-angiostrongyliasis.