A new study reveals that an invasive half-slug creature could be causing cases of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii.
Between 2007 and 2017, 82 cases of parasitic infection were recorded in the state of Aloha.
Lungworm disease in rats is caused by a parasite carried by rats, which excrete larvae ingested by slugs or snails.
Humans then eat, consciously or not, slugs and snails that often hide in unwashed products.
Clinically known as angiostrongylosis, the disease attacks the brain and spinal cord and can even lead to paralysis.
The researchers believe that most cases are caused by an invasive mid-snail and half-slug creature – called a semi-slug – that climbs quickly and can easily enter sinks and water tanks.
Between 2007 and 2017, 82 cases of rare rat lungworm disease have been reported in Hawaii. In the picture: a "semi-slug" would be at the origin of the number of cases in Hawaii
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most cases of rat lungworm disease occur in countries in tropical Asia, such as Thailand and the Pacific Islands.
This is very rarely reported in the continental United States.
"Cases of rat lungworm have been identified in Hawaii as early as 1959, so it's not new to the islands," says the study, published in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Medicine. ;hygiene.
However, Hawaii did not start requiring cases to be reported to the State Department of Health in 2007.
Of the 82 cases reported, 51 were confirmed, the remaining 31 being "probable".
Ten cases were reported in 2018 and five in 2019, but they were not included in the study.
The researchers found that the majority of infected people sometimes said they were eating unwashed products, and at least half said they had stored their food in unsealed containers.
Children under 10 years were more likely to experience symptoms such as fever and vomiting, while adults suffered headaches, joint pains, muscle aches, and stiff necks.
According to the CDC, in most cases, the infection disappears without treatment after the disappearance of the parasite.
However, the researchers indicated that 65 of the cases resulted in hospitalization and two people died.
The study included a number of potential sources, including the Cuban slug, the giant African snail and the marsh snail.
However, the team believes that invasive semi-slugs could be the cause of the majority of cases because they climb quickly and can easily enter water tanks or hide in products.
The senior author of the study, David Johnston, epidemiologist at the state health department of Hawaii, says that the overall risk to humans is low and that It is important to increase awareness of the disease.
"As we continue to improve our understanding of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii and the risk factors associated with infection, we are applying what we have learned to improve our prevention efforts in this area." that state, "he told Infectious Disease News.
"These efforts are focused on educating the public about the disease, its mode of transmission and the best prevention strategies."
The Hawaii Ministry of Health strongly recommends that you do not eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs.
Officials also recommend boiling snails, shrimp and crab before eating and washing all products before eating.