State confirms first case of rat lungworm disease on Oahu involves toddler

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state has confirmed Oahu's first case of rat lungworm disease, and it involves a toddler.

Department of Health officials said the child, who's from Central Oahu, got sick earlier this month and was hospitalized.

An investigation found evidence of the rat lungworm disease parasite in the child's spinal fluid.

"Young children explore the world around them by putting things in their mouths as a natural part of their early development," said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler, in a statement. "As parents and caregivers, we can help ensure their safety by being mindful of where our children play and what they may be putting in their mouths."

This is the fourth confirmed case of the disease in the state this year. The latest included a child from New York who was visiting the Big Island and a Maui resident.

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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