Rare Parasitic Worm Infection Causing Meningitis Raises Concern In Maui, Hawaii
Eating raw or undercooked freshwater shrimp, land crabs and frogs may also result in infection, although, there has not been any documented cases in Hawaii. "Some suggest that it's due to snails or slugs in the ship ballasts-ships coming from Asia and going through the Panama Canal".
The sudden spread of this virus across the U.S. was related to climate change. There are three other cases on the Big Island.
Experts say the growing number of cases on Maui is particularly troubling because there were only three confirmed cases between 2008 and a year ago. In addition, cases have been reported on the mainland in the states of Alabama, California, Florida, and Louisiana.
The rat lungworm infection spreads following rats carrying the parasite excrete the larvae of the roundworm in their faces.
The symptoms of the infection can vary globally and it is also hard to diagnose and there is no treatment available to treat the disease.
The health department can not confirm how each individual became infected with the parasite, but infections are most commonly associated with consuming raw or undercooked slugs and snails, which feed on the feces rats. When humans eat an infected host, or when they eat produce that has the worm, they become infected. People can contact a rat lungworm infection if they eat contaminated produce or by consuming undercooked or raw slugs or snails. In a live-streamed presentation on Facebook, Pang said that the parasite can live in the body for months. The disease infects the brain and causes numerous problems, including meningitis, tremors, inflammation, severe pain, and death.
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The severity of the disease can vary wildly, there's no known treatment, and it's notoriously hard to diagnose.
While symptoms of the disease can vary from person to person, they often include neck stiffness, vomiting, nausea and headaches. No anti-parasitic drugs have been shown to be effective in treating angiostrongyliasis, and there is concern that they could actually make the symptoms worse because of the body's response to potentially more rapidly dying worms. There may also be very rare cases of contamination through water.
He said: 'The slug is easy to kill, but the parasite; it's not so easy, ' he said. This kind of parasite can invade the brain of infected individuals. Since 2007, there have been two (2) related deaths. Also, there is now no treatment for the disease.
The health officials in Hawaii has been alerting people about the infection caused by rare rat lungworm.
Authorities suspect the infection is caused by a new invasive species of semi-slugs which are taking over the Hawaiian island. The parasite was spread all over the globe during World War II. Its spread seems to be triggered by climate change.
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