Another case of rat lungworm disease has been confirmed in an adult visitor to Hawaii island.
The state Health Department said today that it received notification of the confirmed case from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the sixth in Hawaii so far this year.
Of the six cases, three were residents and three were visitors, all of who likely contracted the disease on Hawaii island.
The sixth individual, a mainland resident, was traveling in West Hawaii when he or she was infected with the parasite causing rat lungworm disease. The individual became ill in early February and was hospitalized for a short time on the mainland for his or her symptoms.
An investigation was not able to identify an exact source of infection. However, the individual reported eating a lot of fresh fruits without washing them.
“Washing fresh fruits and vegetables carefully no matter where they come from is an important step to preventing rat lungworm disease,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, in a news release. “Thoroughly inspecting and rinsing produce under clean, running water is the most effective way to remove pests and other contaminants.”
Angiostrongyliasis, commonly known as rat lungworm disease, is caused by a parasitic roundworm and can have debilitating effects on an infected person’s brain and spinal cord. In Hawaii, most people become ill by accidentally ingesting a snail or slug infected with the parasite.
The most common symptoms, which can vary widely, include severe headaches and neck stiffness. In the most serious cases, individuals experience neurological problems, severe pain and long-term disability.
The state Health Department recommends taking the following steps to prevent rat lungworm disease:
>> 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 these vectors safely by clearing debris where they might live, and also using traps and baits. Always wear gloves when working outdoors.
>> Inspect, wash, and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.