KAILUA-KONA — A toddler from East Hawaii has contracted rat lungworm disease, the state Department of Health announced in a press release Thursday.
Laboratory results from a sample of the child’s spinal fluid confirmed evidence of the rat lungworm disease parasite. It is the third confirmed case of rat lungworm disease contracted on Hawaii Island this year and the fifth case statewide in 2018.
The patient visited a local emergency room last week after initially falling ill in late July. The child was subsequently hospitalized and transferred to Oahu for further case management. After several days in the hospital, doctors discharged the child upon improvement of their symptoms.
Disease investigators with DOH are investigating the possible source of contraction.
“Our children move quickly and are naturally curious about the world around them, which is a normal part of their early development,” Hawaii Island District Health Officer Aaron Ueno said in a press release. “We can reduce the risk of rat lungworm disease by controlling slugs and snails around our homes and gardens, and by keeping children away from these harmful vectors as much as possible. The risk of rat lungworm disease exists statewide, and we can work together to take steps to prevent it in our communities.”
DOH provides the following 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.