The Hawaii State Department of Health has affirmed by now six cases of rat lungworm disease on the Maui Island and three cases on the Big Island in the past three months, an official said Monday. No deaths are reported.
Rat lungworm disease, is a parasite known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, and affects the spinal cord and the brain, according to the Disease Control and Prevention centers.
In Maui three possible cases are under investigation in association with one suspected case on Hawaii, said a spokeswoman for the Health Department, Janice Okubo. The confirmed cases on Maui involve two visitors and four residents, and the cases on Hawaii involve residents only.
“The investigation is fluid and the cluster of cases, are very concerning, though not all confirmed, ” Okubo wrote in an email.
Rat lungworm disease affects the spinal cord and the brain. The state cannot confirm how people are infected, “but we know that people acquire the parasite by consuming undercooked or raw snails and slugs,” she said.
Most cases have resulted from consuming, on purpose or accidentally, raw or undercooked snails and slugs infected with parasite. For example, lettuce poorly washed or other raw produces may contain an unnoticed slug or snail.
Transmission can occur as people eat infected frogs, crabs and shrimp, though this is less common, said Walden. There may be very rare cases of water contamination.
“In children, it is vomiting and nausea, not much the headache,” she said. Children run fevers and experience severe abdominal pain than adults.
The illness lasts for two weeks and two months, on average, the incubation period is for one to three weeks.
Anyone worried that they might be infected should consult a health care provider.