State confirms this year's first case of rat lungworm disease

State confirms this year's first case of rat lungworm disease
(Image: University of Hawaii)

HILO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has confirmed the first case of rat lungworm disease in 2018.

The state Health Department said the West Hawaii resident fell seriously ill earlier this month.

Officials said the resident is being treated, and that the rat lungworm parasite was detected in the individual's spinal fluid.

Health Department investigators couldn't determine the exact cause of the infection, however.

"This is a reminder for everyone to take precautions and control snail, slug, and rat populations in and around properties, and especially home and school gardens and farms," said Aaron Ueno, Hawaii District Health Office administrator, in a news release. "We know that slugs, snails, and rats in all counties carry the parasite that can cause rat lungworm disease, and rain with wet conditions often brings more of these garden pests."

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.

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