The health department officials who tell us there’s been an increase of cases of rat lungworm disease on Maui.

There are four confirmed cases of rat lungworm disease on Maui.

Two people who got sick live on maui and two others were visitors to the state, but that tally could rise, as the health department revealed it’s also looking into four other possible cases of rat lungworm disease on Maui.

The disease is caused by a parasite found in rats, it’s spread by snails or slugs, and is contracted by eating tainted vegetables.

A bill is currently making its way through the legislature that would fund programs to study, prevent, and hopefully eradicate the disease.

Dr. Susan Jarvi of UH Hilo spoke with KHON about the spread of the disease on Wednesday, “This parasite is present on all the main Hawaiian islands yet we see also the cases originating from East Hawaii and the question is why is that? In east Hawaii we have semi slug, and because nothing was done when it was introduced 15 years ago, it’s now spread throughout the entire island.”

The concern has prompted a public meeting. The state Department of Health will hold a town hall meeting on Maui on Thursday, April 6, from 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Helene Hall.

For more information on Helene Hall, click here.