Oahu farmers see immediate hit from first case of rat lungworm on island since 2010
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A day after the state health department confirmed Oahu's first case of Rat Lungworm disease in seven years, island farmers are already seeing an impact on their businesses.
Dean Okimoto of Nalo Farms says one of his big customers has already pulled their business since the news broke Wednesday.
Okimoto says his company took a small hit when Rat Lungworm cases were being discovered on the neighbor islands, but now that the disease is back on Oahu, his team has been busy fielding calls from customers.
Along with protocols to keep slugs and pests away from the fields, he says Nalo farms has a processing facility where they take extra steps to wash and safely package the greens.
"This facility actually put me kind of upside down, but we thought about what we wanted to do to deliver good, safe products to our customers, so we bought the machinery. I take it very seriously. I certainly don't want to get anybody sick," Okimoto said.
Meanwhile the health department is still trying to pinpoint the source of the latest case of Rat Lungworm Disease.
As part of its investigation, the department says it is looking at where the patient -- who is currently hospitalized on Oahu -- lives, works, and recreates to try to identify where the disease came from.
Investigators are also checking whether the patient traveled recently, since the Big Island and Maui have both seen cases this year.
The case brings the total number sickened by the disease, caused by a brain-invading parasite, to 16 so far in 2017.
Farmers are telling the public it is still safe to buy local and health officials say you can lower your chances of getting the disease by properly washing and storing your produce.
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