7th case of rat lungworm disease confirmed on Hawaii Island

7th case of rat lungworm disease confirmed on Hawaii Island
(Image: Hawaii News Now) (Source: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - A visitor to the Big Island has become the seventh confirmed case of someone contracting rat lungworm disease in the islands this year.

The Health Department said the visitor was visiting West Hawaii in June, but didn’t seek medical care until July after experiencing dizziness.

The visitor was briefly hospitalized.

Health officials couldn’t pinpoint the source of the visitor’s illness, but said it was likely due to eating vegetables that hadn’t been properly washed.

All seven confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease this year were likely contracted on Hawaii Island.

Three were in residents and four were among visitors.

Rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasitic roundworm and can have debilitating effects on an infected person’s brain and spinal cord.

In Hawaii, most people get ill after accidentally ingesting a snail or slug infected with the parasite.

To cut down on the risk of getting rat lungworm, the state recommends:

  • Washing all fruits and vegetables under clean running water to remove any tiny slugs or snails.
  • Control snail, slug, and rat populations around homes, gardens and farms.
  • Inspect, wash and store produce in sealed containers.

“Thoroughly inspecting and rinsing all fresh fruits and vegetables under clean, running water can go a long way in making our food safer to eat, and it is the most effective way to remove pests and other contaminants,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, in a news release.

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