A teen from New York reportedly fell sick after he contracted a rat lungworm during a recent family vacation in Hawaii in January. The parasite is known to affect the brain and spinal cord. And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can be contracted by eating raw or undercooked snails, slugs or even raw lettuce that are infested with the parasite.
Another case of rat lungworm contraction had put health authorities on high alert a few weeks ago. In this case, a Maui resident was hospitalized in mid-February after he reportedly contracted the parasite on the Hawaii Island.
"These recent cases are a reminder that the risk of rat lungworm disease exists statewide and we all need to take precautions to prevent infection," said the state Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said.
What is rat lungworm?
Rat lungworm, also known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is a parasitic roundworm that resides in the pulmonary arteries of rats. Rodents then excrete the larvae with their feces, which in turn infects other animals like slugs or snails. When humans consume these snails, they contract the parasite.
The disease's symptoms can range from mild headaches and nausea to temporary paralysis or coma and can last for several weeks or months, according to New York Post.
Unfortunately, according to honolulumagazine.com, there is no cure and the patient has to wait till the parasite dies out. Also, the wide range of symptoms make it difficult for doctors to prescribe any specific medicine.
How to prevent it
Make sure that you properly wash all types of food products, even fruits. The magazine, citing Mikala Minn of Mahele Farm, said that fruits and vegetables should be washed under running water and not just by soaking them.
Also, it is best to avoid raw and undercooked slugs, snails, frogs, shrimp, and prawns.