Hawaii issues alert for brain-invading parasite transmitted by snails

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"The slug is easy to kill, but the parasite, it's not so easy", he said.

The parasite lives in the blood vessels of rats' lungs - giving the parasite its name - but the larvae can be expelled in rat droppings and eaten by snails, slugs and other animals, who can pass these baby parasitic worms on to humans.

"If you could imagine, it's like having a slow-moving bullet go through your brain", Dr. Sarah Park, an epidemiologist at the Hawaii department of health, told the Associated Press. Though most cases are mild and resolve without antiworm drugs, symptoms can vary from headaches and neck stiffness to lasting neurological pain, coma, and death.

Hawaiinewsnow.com said the parasite caused a form of meningitis.

The rat lungworm nematodes get ingested eventually by humans when rats that are infected poop worm larvae that then spread to other creatures such as freshwater shrimp, snails and slugs.

Based on the data provided by the Atlantic the first documented case of this infection appeared in Taiwan back in 1944.

Apparently, Hawaii is not the most relaxed area in the US.

Meanwhile, the rat lungworm had two cases being confirmed in the past as shared by the Maui health officials. The confirmed cases on Maui involve four residents and two visitors, and the confirmed cases on Hawaii involve residents only. For example, poorly washed lettuce or other raw produce may contain an unnoticed snail or slug.

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Rat lungworm doesn't just affect humans, it also affects dogs and horses, and can be fatal.

Three possible cases on Maui are also under investigation along with one suspected case on Hawaii, said Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health.

The disease is usually found in parts of Asia and the Pacific Islands, according to the CDC.

According to a report from ABC News, the rat lungworm is known by the scientific name Angiostrongylus cantonesis, and once people are infected, there is no known treatment. She just says they would do it differently - cooking fruits and vegetables instead of eating them raw and making sure their water is filtered or bottled.

The reasoning behind this reluctance is that the immune response could also injure the nervous system or the brain in the process of attacking the parasite.

The health officials in Hawaii has been alerting people about the infection caused by rare rat lungworm.

A week and a half after their return, an infectious disease specialist at UCSF diagnosed them, she said. In the meantime, officials encourage people to wash their fruits and veggies well before eating.

The health department further recommends that consumers avoid handling snails and slugs with their bare hands and that all snails, prawns, crabs, and frogs be boiled for 3-5 minutes before being eaten.

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