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3 More Hawai?i Cases Of Rat Lungworm Disease Confirmed

Tropical Conservation Biology Department, UH Hilo

There have been three new cases of rat lungworm disease contracted by visitors to Hawai?i, officials said.

The state health department received confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of three unrelated cases diagnosed in visitors to Hawai?i Island, news outlets reported Thursday.

Rat lungworm is a parasite that can cause "severe gastrointestinal or central nervous system disease," according to the CDC website. The disease can have debilitating effects on an infected person's brain and spinal cord.

All three who contracted the illness were adults who live on the mainland and visited the Big Island.

The first person became ill after eating a slug in Hawai?i in late December 2018, but was not hospitalized.

The second visitor became ill in early January of this year and an investigation failed to find out how the illness was contracted.

The third person became ill in late February of this year and was hospitalized for a short time.

The person who got sick in December was the eighth to test positive on the Big Island in 2018, bringing the statewide total to 10 confirmed cases last year, officials said.

There have been five confirmed cases this year, all contracted on Hawai?i Island.

"It's important that we ensure our visitors know the precautions to take to prevent rat lungworm disease, which can have severe long-term effects," state Health Director Bruce Anderson said in a release.

"Getting information to visitors about the disease is just as critical as raising awareness amongst our residents," Anderson said.

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