Lethal Brain Disease Seen in Hawaii (STAT News)

A bad headache, neck stiffness, light sensitivity and vomiting and can start more than six weeks after ingesting the worm, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is carried by rats and transmitted by snails and slugs.

The surprising uptick has health officials and residents alike anxious about the rise of the worm, which can invade the human brain.

The Hawaiian health authorities said that a person could become infected if they touch contaminated animals or if they handle or eat contaminated food.

Because this area prospers due to tourism, preventing people from eating local food due to an infection might be a disaster. However, it can cause permanent damage as it invades the brain and its membrane. Health officials have stated that among the six confirmed cases, two of them involve visitors of the island that came from North Carolina on vacation, while the other 4 cases involve residents.

"If you could imagine, it's like having a slow-moving bullet go through your brain and there's no rhyme or reason why it's going to hang out in this part of the brain or that part of the brain", Park said.

Over the last ten years, Hawaii has experienced more than 70 cases of rat lungworm cases among its residents, the Hawaii State Legislature registers show. According to Gizmodo, experts have blamed the rat lungworm and its eponymous disease's spread on two things: climate change and globalization.

Officials from Maui, Hawaii, have warned citizens about certain locations to stay away from snails or slugs as contact with them with bare skin could lead to the development of the brain-invading parasite, also called rat lungworm. In the past few decades, the parasite made its way to the U.S., reaching Hawaii, California, Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana, Florida, and other parts of the Gulf Coast.

A sharp rise in infections stemming from a parasitic worm that invades the human brain has health officials in the Hawaiian island of Maui anxious.

Rat lungworm disease is a condition in which parasitic worm larvae infect people's brains. "Area residents have said that they are more careful about washing local produce before they eat it "and they line their yards with slug bait". Infections have since been reported in more than 30 countries, including the US, and while globalization has been pinned as a culprit, climate change has also been suggested as a reason for rat lungworm disease's increasing prevalence.

"The brain parasite can be hard to diagnose because no blood test is available that will confirm an infection is present".

Researchers discovered a rare parasite which attacks the brain.

According to a report from ABC News, the rat lungworm is known by the scientific name Angiostrongylus cantonesis, and once people are infected, there is no known treatment. Numerous cases could have been prevented, by taking precautions like washing one's hands after handling creatures that might be infected, and by making sure produce is washed and creatures that might be infected are thoroughly cooked before they are eaten.

  • Joanne Flowers