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Growing Concerns Over Rat Lungworm Prompt More Maui Meetings

Wendy Osher · April 14, 2017, 8:36 AM HST (Updated April 18, 2017, 6:24 PM) · 19 Comments
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Rat Lungworm meeting in Haʻikū on Monday, April 17, 2017.

The state Department of Health hosts additional community meetings amid concerns surrounding Rat Lungworm.

The next meeting takes place in Haʻikū on Monday, April 17, 2017, beginning at 5:30 p.m. at the Haʻikū Community Center.

The meeting will include information presented by the state Department of Health, the College of Tropical Agriculture & Human Resources, the Maui Invasive Species Committee and the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.

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

The disease, also known as Angiostrongyliasis, affects the brain and spinal cord.

The parasite lives in rats and is passed to other animals like snails, slugs, freshwater prawns, crabs and frogs when they eat materials contaminated with rat feces.

Humans can become infected when they ingest raw and undercooked foods contaminated with the parasite.  Health officials say human infection is usually mild, but in rare cases, meningitis or coma can occur.  Symptoms may include severe headache, stiffness of the neck and back, skin tingling and sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, and hallucinations.

PC: Hawaiʻi Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control/ Chris Jacobson (CDC)

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Some of the slugs and snails that carry the rat lungworm parasite include: the Giant African Snail; the Baby Semi-Slug; the Cuban Slug; and Adult Semi-Slugs.

In an effort to prevent transmission, the public is advised to take the following precautions outlined by the state Department of Health:

  • Avoid eating raw foods contaminated with slugs, snails and their slime;
  • Wash produce thoroughly (both conventionally and organically grown),
  • Or cook produce for at least five minutes to kill the parasite;
  • Boil freshwater snails, prawns and crabs for at least five minutes;
  • Do not handle snails and slugs with bare hands.  Wash hands after gardening;
  • Apply slug bait to eliminate slugs from your garden; control rodents near your home;
  • Cover your catchment tanks to prevent slugs and snails from having access.

DOH Hāna Community Meeting on rat lungworm concerns, 4.6.17. PC: County of Maui.

An additional community meeting is planned on Wednesday, April 26 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hannibal Tavares Community Center in Pukalani.

Informational sessions are also planned in Kula and Kahului for growers, landscapers and gardeners.  The sessions, organized by the UH Mānoa Cooperative Extension will take place on Thursday, April 20 at 6 p.m.at the Kula Kula Community Center and on Tuesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Community Service Building. The Kula and Kahului sessions will focus on managing rat, snail and slug populations, as well as inspection and sanitation measures to minimize the spread of Rat Lungworm parasites.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served more than 15 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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