Health & Science

Rat lungworm disease confirmed in 6 in Hawaii this year

The Hawaii State Department of Health has confirmed a new case of rat lungworm disease, a report said.

A mainland resident became ill while traveling in west Hawaii in February, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Including the new infection, there has been six confirmed cases of rat lungworm contracted in Hawaii this year. The cases include three residents and three visitors who all likely contracted the disease on the Big Island, officials said.

The sixth infected person, who was not identified, was hospitalized for a short time after eating fruits that had not been washed, officials said.

An investigation was not able to confirm the source of infection, officials said.

The disease caused by a parasitic roundworm can affect a victim's brain and spinal cord and potentially cause long-term disability. In Hawaii, most people become ill by accidentally ingesting a snail or slug infected with the parasite, experts said.

Washing produce and controlling vermin populations around homes can help prevent the disease, health officials said.

"Thoroughly inspecting and rinsing produce under clean, running water is the most effective way to remove pests and other contaminants," said Sarah Park, a state epidemiologist

The most common symptoms, which can vary widely, include severe headaches and neck stiffness. In the most serious cases, individuals experience neurological problems, severe pain and long-term disability, experts said.

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