Big Island infant diagnosed with rat lungworm disease

Big Island infant diagnosed with rat lungworm disease
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A Big Island infant who fell ill in December has been diagnosed with rat lungworm disease, bringing the number of cases of the disease statewide last year to eight.

So far, there have been no confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease in 2019.

Officials said the infant, from East Hawaii, has been transferred to Oahu for further treatment.

Investigators are still trying to figure out how the child contracted the disease.

“Determining the exact source of infection for rat lungworm disease in any patient is difficult since it requires a deep dive into a person’s food consumption history,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson.

“Infants can be even more complicated because they can’t verbalize their symptoms or what they ate."

Rat lungworm affects the brain and spinal cord, and is caused by a parasite that’s only found in rodents.

Rodents pass the larvae on in their feces, and other animals (including slugs or snails) can become infected. Humans can get sick when they inadvertently eat those intermediate hosts, usually on raw produce that hasn't been washed.

The disease causes a rare type of meningitis. Some people have no or mild symptoms. Others can become violently ill.

This story will be updated.

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