An infant from East Hawaii who fell ill in December has been confirmed as 2018’s eighth case of rat lungworm disease.
According to a statement from the Hawaii Department of Health, the East Hawaii child — whose name or sex have not been released — became ill in early December and has since been transported to Oahu. The child tested positive for angiostrongyliasis — more commonly referred to as rat lungworm disease.
Because the patient is an infant, determining the source of the infection will be difficult. Because rat lungworm disease is typically contracted by ingesting snails or slugs infected by the rat lungworm, a full examination of the patient’s eating history is required to determine the origin of the infection, which will be significantly harder to determine given infants’ inability to speak and tendency to put non-food objects in their mouths.
According to the statement, the patient remains in a hospital on Oahu for further case management.
The infant was the eighth person to contract rat lungworm disease in the state last year. The seventh person to do so was also an East Hawaii child, who was diagnosed in early November.
Early symptoms of the disease include abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and neck stiffness, and in serious cases can progress to cognitive impairment, muscle atrophy, respiratory failure and even death.
Last year, an Australian man died from the disease, having been rendered quadriplegic from ingesting a slug on a dare in Sydney eight years prior.
Residents are urged to mitigate snail, slug and rat populations around their properties, use gloves when working outdoors and wash and inspect all produce before eating.