Couple Contract Rare Lungworm Disease in Hawaii; More Cases Detected

Posted April 13, 2017

The slug is easy to kill, but the parasite, it's not so easy. The disease can also be contracted from eating raw or undercooked snails, slugs, frogs, freshwater shrimp or land crabs. However, it can cause permanent damage as it invades the brain and its membrane.

"If you could imagine, it's like having a slow-moving bullet go through your brain", Dr. Sarah Park, an epidemiologist at the Hawaii department of health, told the Associated Press.

"This disease has really destroyed my life", she said. Though most cases are mild and resolve without antiworm drugs, symptoms can vary from headaches and neck stiffness to lasting neurological pain, coma, and death. The infection is carried by rodents and can be transmitted by slugs, snails and other animals found on fresh produce.

Tricia Mynar, a preschool worker, and a Maui resident is one of the people who contracted the unsafe rat lungworm disease.

Travelers who visit Hawaii love the beaches and numerous tourist attractions, but consumers would do well to be mindful of what they eat and which areas they visit.

The Hawaii State Department of Health has now confirmed at least six cases of rat lungworm disease. The rat lungworm also called the Angiostrongylus cantonensis infects rats' lungs and their blood.

So far, in 2017, health officials confirmed that 2 Maui residents have been affected by the rare parasitic worm.

A bill is now making its way through the legislature that would fund programs to study, prevent, and hopefully eradicate the disease. People can become infected from snails and slugs.

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Over the last ten years, Hawaii has experienced more than 70 cases of rat lungworm cases among its residents, the Hawaii State Legislature registers show.

Angiostrongyliasis, also known as rat lungworm, is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

The Hawaiian island health officials are lately anxious following rise in infections that is stemming from a parasitic work capable of invading human brains.

People eating unhealthy and contaminated fruits and vegetables and also raw or undercooked snails can contract meningitis.

Tricia Mynar, one of the six patients diagnosed with infectious meningitis caused by a stray Angiostronylus cantonesis who traveled to her brain and nervous system, describes the intense pain she feels as the parasites traverse her brain. Over 2,800 cases have been reported in about 30 countries, majority in parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands, with fewer cases appearing in the Caribbean and Africa.

"[Make] sure that the foods you eat are cooked properly, your vegetables are washed - that would help you prevent infection", said Walden.

While there is no specific treatment for the disease, the State Department of Health notes that the parasites can not age or reproduce in humans and will eventually die over time, resulting in a "self-limiting" infection.