Hawaii is the favorite destination of numerous people, and if you are among them, you should know that the Health Department of the state has released warnings about a parasitic worm capable of infecting humans and affecting the brain and spinal cord.
Namely, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there have been three brand new cases of United States mainland adults infected with this brain worm while visiting Hawaii Island.
The cases were entirely unrelated, became infected at different times, and lived in different places.
These cases add up to the state’s case total to 5 infections in 2019 and 10 infections in 2018. Officials report that this new eruption in parasitic worm infections is caused by a boom in the population of semi-slugs, a carrier of the worm.
According to the statement of the Health Department, even though it is not clear how these people were infected in Hawaii, one of them recalls eating several homemade salads while in Hawaii.
On the other hand, the other remembers eating unwashed raw fruits, vegetables, and other plants straight from the land.
In all of the Hawaii cases, the particular parasite was the rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis), which usually lives inside the lungs of rats. Females lay eggs there and then young worms leave their nest soon and seek for a new home.
The larvae get trapped in the rat’s airway and are then swallowed and passed through their digestive system.
Therefore, snails, slugs, and other feces-eating bugs are intermediate hosts until new rodents eat them. Prepubescent parasites live in the rat’s brain until they’re mature enough to resettle and reproduce in the lungs.
While some people infected with this parasite don’t have any symptoms, others can develop a rare form of meningitis called eosinophilic meningitis.
The symptoms of this condition include severe headache, stiff neck, low-grade fever, tingling or pain, and vomiting. The Hawaii Department of Health reports that symptoms usually start one to three weeks after exposure to the parasite.
The State of Hawaii Department of Health warns that one gets infected by eating food contaminated by the larval stage of A. cantonensis worms, found in raw or undercooked snails or slugs. Sometimes raw produce can contain a small infected snail or slug, or part of one.
Diagnosing this infection is difficult, as it might not cause any symptoms, and blood tests won’t identify the parasite. Typically, patients infected with the worm are left to manage their symptoms until it dies on its own.
However, do not let this news scare you away, as this does not mean that you should remove Hawaii from your top destination list. You should just be cautious instead.
Therefore, if you are visiting Hawaii soon, avoid eating snails and slugs, wash all the produce bought in stores, especially foods like salads, and keep them in airtight containers.