The rat lungworm is a parasite that is commonly located in the pulmonary arteries of rats, hence the name. However, in some extreme cases, humans become incidental victims of the lungworm. This happens if the snails they are eating are undercooked. This way, the larvae of the parasite can survive the cooking process and are ingested in the system. Once in the human body, they reach the central nervous system. Once there, they can trigger eosinophilic meningitis which can lead to the death of the victim. As of recently, the Hawaii State Department of Health signaled nine brain parasite cases.
The Frequency of the Brain Parasite Cases Is Unusual
On Monday, the Hawaii State Department of Health made a health issue public. The office recorded six brain parasite cases on the island of Maui. The rest of three victims originate from the Big Island. All these cases appeared in the last six months. Fortunately, the infection did not lead to death for any of the victims.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns people that the rat lungworm with the official title of Angiostrongylus cantonensis affects the spinal cord and the brain. A spokeswoman for the Department of Health, Janice Okubo, announced that four more cases in Hawaii and Maui are investigated for traces of such a parasite.
The state considers this situation more worrisome than usually. Normally, there are up to nine such brain parasite cases of rat lungworm each year. Moreover, there were only two deaths related to this type of infection since the year of 2007. As a consequence, the concerning factor comes from the rapid way through which the disease has spread in a matter of months.
Rat Lungworm Affects People Only through Raw or Undercooked Food Consumption
The authorities still don’t know how each person got contaminated. However, the majority of cases happen as a consequence of consumption of raw slugs and snails. If the parasite previously contaminated these products, consumers would most surely receive larvae. This can happen even unwillingly. For instance, tourists can consume lettuce, yet they don’t notice the accidental presence of a slug.
Symptoms of the disease vary from kids to adults. Usually, the first sign is that the victim starts complaining of headaches. Afterward, other symptoms start evolving, such as nausea, vomiting, and neck stiffness. However, children usually skip the headache stage and present sessions of vomiting and nausea. The period of incubation can be up to three weeks from the moment people eat the infested food.
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