'There were no signs': Rat lungworm victim wants state to do mor - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

'There were no signs': Rat lungworm victim wants state to do more

(Image: Tatum Larson) (Image: Tatum Larson)
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

A woman who contracted rat lungworm disease during a visit to the Big Island said the state needs to do more to educate people about the brain-invading parasite.

"Mine started with really severe itching for almost two weeks," said Tatum Larson, who believes she got rat lungworm after eating local lettuce that was purchased in Hilo.

"It moved to more of the sharp, stabbing pain that everyone talks about (after that)."

The 24-year-old moved from Maui to Seattle to receive treatment, and is hoping to raise awareness about rat lungwom.

She's one of the 14 people who are confirmed to have contracted the disease in Hawaii so far this year. Most sufferers make a full recovery, but the parasite can cause a serious, sometimes debilitating illness.

Rat lungworm is caused by parasitic nematode 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.

When Larson contracted it in Hilo, she said she had no idea what had happened to her or that she needed to take precautions to prevent becoming infected.

"Considering that's the epicenter of where it all is, there were no signs, there were no flyers, there was no information at all," she said. "The only reason I knew about it was because a friend had told me about it."

Dr. Ginny Pressler, director of the state Health Department, acknowledged that the state should do more to increase awareness about rat lungworm.

"We're actively working now to make sure that the message is getting out, we're just updating all of our materials," she said. "We'll have TV, radio, print, door-hangers. We hope to have them out by the end of the month.

Larson, who continues to recover in Washington, said that more resources funding, primarily should be directed to the laboratory at the University of Hawaii at Hilo that is studying the disease.

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