Hawaii confirms the state's third known case of rat lungworm disease, also known as angiostrongyliasis, on the island in 2019.
Hawaii's Third Case
A resident of East Hawaii, the unnamed patient tested positive for the disease in mid-April. However, officials say that the patient may have been infected as far back as February.
According to a news release from the state's Department of Health, this individual was hospitalized. However, the exact source of the rat lungworm disease has not yet been identified.
"Diagnosis and treatment of this disease is incredibly difficult, especially since there is still much we don't know about the parasite and the disease," said Health Director Bruce Anderson in the news release, explaining that there's a task force developing a preliminary clinical guidance and training for doctors who may encounter infected patients. "That work, along with immediate reporting by physicians is critical to facilitate prompt, accurate diagnosis and appropriate patient management."
The first two cases of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii in 2019 both occurred earlier in the year, both beginning to feel ill in January, according to Hawaii News Now.
More About Rat Lungworm Disease
CDC says that angiostrongyliasis is an infection caused by the parasitic worm Angiostrongylus cantonensis. While the adult parasite is only found in rodents, larvae can be passed on to snails and slugs through rat feces. Humans can get infected by eating raw or undercooked infected snails or slugs.
Some people have been known to contract the disease by eating produce with a tiny snail or slug that's likely infected. It's also possible to get infected by eating raw or undercooked animals that have been found with the parasite's larvae, such as freshwater crab, shrimp, or frogs.
Symptoms of angiostrongyliasis are usually mild, including headache, stiff neck, tingling or painful sensations in the skin, fever, nausea, and vomiting. Pain medication or medication for these symptoms are often the only treatment needed as the parasite usually dies naturally over time.
However, rat lungworm disease can cause a rare type of meningitis known as eosinophilic meningitis. For severe cases, doctors may recommend other types of treatments to the patients.
Few cases have occurred in continental United States.
To prevent infection, the DOH is encouraging people to keep snail, slug, and rat populations around their living spaces limited. Traps and baits are tried-and-tested options as well as clearing away debris where populations can grow. Wearing gloves when working outdoors is also recommended.
It's important to wash and clean fresh produce upon purchase, especially leafy greens, to remove the possible presence of tiny snails or slugs.