Brain Parasite in Hawaii

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Rat Lungworm

Scribe:  N. Tru Bass



Reports of a half of dozen cases of rat lungworm disease have been reported on the island of Maui, Hawaii—three cases on the big Island over the past three months according to officials. 

Rat lungworm is a parasite that affects the brain, despite its name.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the parasites official name is Angiostrongylus cantonensis. 

The cases involve four residents and two visitors, and the confirmed cases on Hawaii involve residents only.  Traditionally the state gets less than ten cases each year.  The most recent cases were all within a few months.   The last death from the parasite was in 2007 when two people died.

Most cases result from eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs that are infected with the parasite.  Poorly washed lettuce or other raw produce may contain an unnoticed snail or slug.  If you think you have the parasite you will feel, neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting.  In children, it’s more the nausea and vomiting, without headache. 

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