You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Three cases of rat lungworm disease confirmed in Hawaii

New York Daily News logo New York Daily News 5/27/2019 Tim Balk
a close up of an animal © Provided by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Rat lungworm disease, a rare infection that can cause intense headaches and neck stiffness, continues to pop up in Hawaii, with the state’s Health Department confirming three new incidents on Thursday.

Ten incidents of the infection, which is contracted by consuming rat lungworm larvae, were confirmed in the state in 2018.

All three of the recent cases involved visitors to Hawaii.

“It’s important that we ensure our visitors know the precautions to take to prevent rat lungworm disease, which can have severe long-term effects," Bruce Anderson, director of Hawaii’s Health Department, said in a news release. “Getting information to visitors about the disease is just as critical as raising awareness amongst our residents."

The disease spreads from rodents to snails, slugs and other animals, including frogs, through the rodents’ poop. And humans can pick up the infection by eating raw food with infected snails or slugs, according to the Hawaii Health Department.

It cannot be passed from one person to another, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Occurrences in the United States are largely isolated to Hawaii, although in 1993 a boy in New Orleans picked it up when he took a dare to eat a raw snail, according to the CDC.

The Hawaii Health Department also said that someone in December got the infection from eating a slug on a dare.

“We recognize that there is more work to be done in educating residents and visitors and making sure they know how to prevent the spread of this disease,” Anderson said in the release.

The infection strikes the brain and spinal cord. It sometimes goes undetected.

Rat lungworm has been endemic to Hawaii for at least the past half-century, Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor of parasitology at the University of Florida, told CNN.

All three recent confirmed cases came about on Hawaii’s main island, also known as the Big Island.


More from New York Daily News

New York Daily News
New York Daily News
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon