Rare brain parasite, transmitted by slugs, raises alarm in Hawaii

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The spread of a brain parasite infection, angiostrongylus cantonensis, also known as rat lungworm, is on the rise in Maui. Eliminating snails, slugs, and rats founds near houses and gardens might also help reduce risk exposure to A.

"The parasite is spreading widely around the world", concluded a 2015 paper, "facilitated by ease of global travel, globalization of commerce, and climate change".

In addition this year, there have also been three (3) confirmed Hawaii Island resident cases.

Two newlyweds from California are among the latest victims of the rat lungworm disease that is affecting Hawaii.

Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the department of infectious diseases and pathology at the University of Florida, said rat lungworm disease has "been endemic in Hawaii for at least 50 years, so it's been there for a while".

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. But when people eat undercooked snail, slugs, or other sea life (though not fish, it seems) that have swallowed lungworm larva, the worm migrates up to our brain and matures to its final stage. As a result, inflammation from the body's immune response can result in scarring or other damage to the nervous system, which can cause pain during the infection.

While symptoms of the disease can vary from person to person, they often include neck stiffness, vomiting, nausea and headaches. The symptoms can sometimes "start more than six weeks after the worm was ingested".

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Hawaiian authorities are now investigate the rising number of cases of the brain-invading parasite. "Some suggest that it's due to snails or slugs in the ship ballasts-ships coming from Asia and going through the Panama Canal".

Next thing you know, your brain is being invaded and it doesn't sound good at all. In 2007, two deaths were linked to the parasitic infection. Also, there is now no treatment for the disease.

The disease is a condition in which parasitic worm larvae infect people's brains.

Behind that, it's possible that increasing globalisation and shipping is to blame for the distribution of the parasite, which was first identified in Taiwan in 1944, but which has spread far and wide in the last few decades. Scientists fear that this is just another outcome of climate change.

In a follow-up on the Angiostrongyliasis, or rat lungworm situation in Hawaii, state health officials say for the past three months they have been investigating a cluster on the island of Maui.

There have been six confirmed cases with ties to Maui in 2017.

To prevent angiostrongyliasis, don't eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs, and if you handle snails or slugs, be sure to wear gloves and wash your hands.