State confirms new rat lungworm case

HONOLULU — The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed a recent case of rat lungworm disease in an infant from East Hawaii.

The infant was the sixth individual from Hawaii Island who tested positive for angiostrongyliasis in 2018, bringing the statewide total to eight cases confirmed last year. So far, there are no confirmed rat lungworm disease cases in 2019.

The infant became ill in early December and, since then, has been transferred to Oahu and is hospitalized for further case management. DOH disease investigators are conducting a detailed investigation to learn more about the patient and possible sources of infection.

“Determining the exact source of infection for rat lungworm disease in any patient is difficult since it requires a deep dive into a person’s food consumption history,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson. “Infants can be even more complicated because they can’t verbalize their symptoms or what they ate. A parent or caregiver would have to see them picking up a slug or snail and putting it in their mouth. We know this is how most children who become ill with rat lungworm disease get infected, so it’s important to keep our keiki away from these harmful vectors as much as possible.”

The majority of cases are appearing on Hawaii Island in recent years, and Hilo Medical Center created the Rat Lungworm Support Group at the request of a survivor.

Since its inception in December 2017, the group has been primarily focused on supporting survivors and their caregivers who are living through long-term effects of rat lungworm disease.

Participants learn about resources and information from healthcare providers, government officials, medical experts and advocates who support research and prevention efforts of the disease.

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