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Hawaii officials confirm 2 more rat lungworm infections

April 12, 2018

HONOLULU (AP) — State health officials have confirmed two new rat lungworm infections in Hawaii.

Health officials said Wednesday that the separate cases involve an adult Maui resident and an adolescent visiting the Big Island from New York.

Officials said the Maui resident became ill in mid-February and was briefly hospitalized. The individual was most likely infected on Maui but had a history of traveling to Oahu and the Big Island during the time when the infection might have occurred.

The New York adolescent had been in Hawaii in January and was hospitalized a month later after returning to New York.

The two confirmed cases bring the state’s count up to three for 2018. The first case involved an adult West Hawaii resident.

“These recent cases are a reminder that the risk of rat lungworm disease exists statewide and we all need to take precautions to prevent infection,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said. “We can all do our part to eliminate risks around our homes, gardens, and farms by controlling rats, slugs and snails, especially during the rainy season. Inspecting and thoroughly washing produce under clean, running water can go a long way in preventing rat lungworm disease.”

Officials confirmed 18 cases statewide last year.

The rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasite and can have debilitating effects on a person’s brain and spinal cord.

“In Hawaii, most people who become ill with the disease accidentally ingested a snail or slug infected with the parasite,” the health department said.

Common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness. Serious cases involve neurological problems and severe pain and disability.

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