Rat lungworm case confirmed in North Hawaii

  • Snails, rats and slugs can transmit the rat lungworm parasite. (Photo courtesy University of Hawaii at Manoa)

KAILUA-KONA — A second case of rat lungworm disease has been contracted on Hawaii Island this year, the Hawaii Department of Health announced Thursday. No cases have been reported on any other island in 2019.

An adult resident of North Hawaii fell ill in January, according to a press release from the department. Testing though DOH’s State Laboratories Division confirmed the infection in late February. The individual was hospitalized for a short time and has since recovered.

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Investigators could not identify the precise source of the infection. However, the individual cultivated a home garden on his property. It is likely the individual accidentally consumed a slug or snail while eating produce from their garden, the release contended.

“In Hawaii, we need to treat all slugs and snails as if they are infected with the parasite that causes rat lungworm disease, and this means washing all produce no matter where it comes from, whether it’s from the grocery store, the farmer’s market or grown in our own home gardens and yards,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “Washing all produce carefully and thoroughly using clean, running water is the most effective way to remove unwanted slugs or snails from fresh fruits and vegetables.”

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DOH is planning to host a community meeting in North Hawaii in late April to provide residents in the area with information about rat lungworm disease and how they can protect themselves, the release continued.

Health officials and experts on prevention will be on hand to answer questions and share information. The meeting is tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m. April 22 at the North Kohala Public Library. More details about the event and will be shared with the public at a later time.

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