Bizarre News April 2017; Hawaiians Are Contracting Rat Lungworm Disease At An Alarming Rate
Wailuku, Hawaii: Since the new year, officials in Maui have reported six confirmed cases of Rat Lungworm Disease. While that doesn’t sound alarming, it’s four more cases than the same island had had in the last ten years combined.
To make matters worse, a seventh is pending investigation, and may be from another island altogether; The Big Island.
If you’ve never heard of Rat Lungworm disease, consider yourself normal. It’s not a top ten pandemic, not yet, but this recent up-spike could put the parasite on watch. Let’s hope this is where the story ends, but in Maui, it may only have begun.
It’s a type of roundworm or parasitic nematode, called Angiostrongylus Cantonensis. They’re not easy to kill, not by the means one would dispense of larger parasites.
One can't stomp on a nematode to kill it. You could, say, stomp on the host to kill it, but the roundworm would not likely die.
Most parasites with which we’re familiar infect our digestive systems. We take a battery of antibiotics, and then in short order, they’re expelled. The End.
The Rat Lungworm feeds a much eerier part of the body: the brain.
Getting to the brain of a host is a long path, but involves one of humanity's long-abhorred pests, the common rat. The worms travel through the digestive system of rats, then hop onto pseudopods like slug or snails, getting into our produce.
Then, we eat them.
Once they get to the brain, the lungworms move slowly, affecting systems as they go. Why they go there, we don’t yet know, but we know the symptoms they create by doing so.
The presence of the lungworm in people presents itself as a rare meningitis. Symptoms begin with headaches, sometimes severe, and may include neck stiffness and tingling in the extremities.
Sufferers may also develop nausea, which could include vomiting. In some cases, one may experience temporary paralysis of the face and sensitivity to light.
Untreated, the damage to the brain can be permanent, even fatal if not treated. The key is to respond before the nematodes bore too far into the brain.
Also, doctors need to be able to separate the symptoms from the disorder, meningitis or a pest.
The best solution for this parasite is prevention. It’s the same advice your parents gave you growing up.
Wash your produce. It doesn’t matter how clean it looks, you have to give your biological produce a good washing before consuming them.
Don’t just splash water on your veggies. Pull the leaves off your lettuce, manipulating the parts with your hands under running water.
Roll tomatoes and round fruits in your hands under running water.
Should one, in the remotest of possibilities, determine with a doctor that she has a case of rat lungworm, the treatment will include a variety of methods, which will depend on resources and how far along are your symptoms.
The doctor will want to drain some of the cerebrospinal fluid from the infection site. She may also prescribe corticosteroids to help with CNS symptoms.
Australia & New Zealand
Hawaii holds a unique global position, a center stopping point between many trade points, China, India, and of course Australia. Transit between these points is regular and rats have a history of spreading disease in this manner.
We’d love to report that today’s shipping business is without the problems of our ancestors, but the re-emergence of beg bugs proved that we have not solved this riddle. Pests still spread through our ports.
The actual probability of an Australian suffering Rat Lungworm in-country or even traveling to Hawaii is slim.
Not to confound your fears, but lungworms of this type already live closer to home than Hawaii, in Asia and the Pacific Basin.
As the aphorism goes, one is in more danger commuting to the airport for a flight…
Still, the prospect of a worm tunneling through one’s cerebrum, symptoms aside, is unnerving. (Sorry for the pun.)
As far as Hawaii goes, if you were worried, it’s doubtful this will hurt the islands much. Most travelers won’t ever hear of the issue.
In the last decade, the islands have suffered 70-plus cases of lungworm, mostly on the Big Island. That’s about 7 a year.
More people die from drowning in Hawaii, like almost ten times that number every year.
Like I said, more dangerous commuting to the airport, but still… eww.