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Two new cases of rat lungworm disease confirmed in Hawaii

HONOLULU (KHON2) - An adult and a toddler are the fourth and fifth cases of rat lungworm disease on Hawaii Island so far this year.

The Department of Health says a child from East Hawaii became ill in October and is now being treated on Oahu. Disease investigators are looking into how the child contracted the disease.

In August, an adult from West Hawaii got sick from a mild case of rat lungworm disease and has since recovered. After an investigation, the department was unable to determine the source of the disease and the case was closed.

There have been seven confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii this year.

“With the rainy season in full swing, we may expect to see more slugs and snails around our homes and gardens,” Health Director Dr. Bruce Anderson said. “We can reduce the risk of rat lungworm disease by taking precautions to safely eliminate rats, slugs and snails in our communities. Keeping our young children away from these harmful vectors as well as thoroughly washing all produce before consuming it is crucial.”

DOH recommendations to prevent rat lungworm disease:

  • Control snail, slug, and rat populations around homes, gardens and farms. Get rid of these vectors safely by clearing debris where they might live, and also using traps and baits. Always wear gloves for safety when working outdoors.
  • Inspect, wash and store produce in sealed containers, regardless of whether it came from a local retailer, farmer’s market, or backyard garden.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables under clean, running water to remove any tiny slugs or snails. Pay close attention to leafy greens.

In Hawaii, most people become ill by accidentally ingesting a snail or slug infected with the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis (A. cantonensis). Symptoms vary widely between cases, and the most common ones include severe headaches and neck stiffness. The most serious cases experience neurological problems, severe pain, and long-term disability.

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