Health Tips Cases of this rare brain disease are currently spiking in Hawaii

In the worst thing to hit Hawaii since the Pro Bowl, the Hawaiian state department has announced that they’ve had nine confirmed cases of “rat lungworm disease” over the past three months.

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The parasite is contracted via snails, slugs, and seafood

In the worst thing to hit Hawaii since the Pro Bowl, the Hawaiian state department has announced that they’ve had nine confirmed cases of “rat lungworm disease” over the past three months. Six of those cases have taken place on Maui, while another three were reported on the Big Island, said a spokeswoman on Monday. Four other potential cases are currently being investigated. If there is a silver lining, it’s that, so far, no deaths have been reported.

In case you, like me, are wondering just what exactly “rat lungworm disease” is, it’s a parasite that affects both the brain and spinal cord. While the current “outbreak” is getting its fair share of media attention, it should be noted that the state typically gets one to nine cases per year, with two people dying as a result of it over the past decade.

“The investigation is fluid and the cluster of cases, though not all confirmed, are very concerning,” said spokeswoman Janice Okubo, in an email to CNN. She also added that while they’re unaware of what caused the recent upsurge in cases, “[W]e do know that people can acquire the parasite by consuming raw or undercooked snails and slugs.”

The disease can also enter your system by way of infected seafood, though that’s rare. Common symptoms in adults who’ve contracted rat lungworm include: headaches, neck stiffness, vomiting and nausea. The typical duration of the illness is between two weeks and two months. The disease is not contagious.

The parasite travels to the brain when it gets into humans. While in there it can cause meningitis. It also can travel to the eye(s), which can cause ocular Angiostrongylus. According to a research paper that was published in 2014, roughly 80 percent of land snails in Hawaii carry the parasite, which seems like useful information for tourists.

To avoid contracting it, officials say to properly store and wash produce “especially leafy greens,” which may be hosting unseen snails or slugs. They also advise against handling slugs with your bare hands, and say that you should boil all snails, crabs, frogs and freshwater prawns for three to five minutes before eating. Follow these steps and you’ll (hopefully) stay rat lungworm free which, as you might have gathered, sure beats the alternative.

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