Health Officials Are Investigating A Scary Brain Parasite In Hawaii

Health Officials Are Investigating A Scary Brain Parasite In Hawaii

The disease known as rat lungworm is spread by snails or slugs that ingest rat feces containing parasite larvae.

Depending what part of the brain the parasite lodges itself in, the symptoms can range accordingly.

The actual number of cases in Hawaii will be unclear until the Department of Health completes its investigation, according to state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park.

"It turned our lives upside down and inside out", Lape said.

"I can not teach because of this disease", the former art teacher said.

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DOH is now investigating three (3) reported cases of possible rat lungworm infection on Maui and at least one (1) possible case on Hawaii Island. In the past few decades, the parasite made its way to the U.S., reaching Hawaii, California, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and other parts of the Gulf Coast. Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Health, told CNN the state typically receives reports of one to nine cases total of rat lungworm disease each year.

There are no treatments for the infection as of the moment, and scientists have yet to discover an angiostrongyliasis cure.

State epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park says she can not say exactly how many cases of rat lungworm there are until the Department of Health completes its investigation and gets a full assessment. Smashing, burying or burning them does not deter rats from eating them and restarting the cycle of rat lungworm.

A rare parasitic worm that can infect people's brains is causing concern in Maui, where there has been a rise in cases in recent months. They have also been taking steps to curb the increasing numbers of these slugs.

PC: Hawaiʻi Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention via Office of Sen.

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The first known case of the rat lungworm disease was reported in 1944, in Taiwan.

People come in contact after eating such infected animals or even if consuming contaminated raw fruit and vegetables.

"Our body realizes this is so foreign we attack it...by that time the worm is one inch big and by then it's a major battle", Pang said, describing the immune system fight to kill the parasite.

Okubo added that the parasite has been found in slugs and snails on Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii islands. "So making sure that the foods you eat are cooked properly, your vegetables are washed - that would help you prevent infection", Walden said.

A 2004 World Health Organisation report warned that "most new infections seem to be caused by pathogens already present in the environment, which have been brought out of obscurity, or given selective advantage, by changing ecological or social conditions". The junior versions can thereafter hitch a ride on other hosts, including snails, slugs, freshwater shrimp, crabs, and frogs.

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