A California newlywed couple contracted rat lungworm disease during their honeymoon in Hawaii.
A painful illness:
64 year old Ben Manilla and 57 year old Eliza Lape, got married on Maui last January and spent their honeymoon in the island’s remote Hana area. Lape felt sick before leaving the island.
Manilla said that that he was hospitalized in the intensive care unit for two months because of the parasite. The teacher at University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism underwent several operations and suffered from two pneumonias, a blood clot, and a kidney issue.
On Monday, the Hawaii State Department of Health has confirmed that over the past three months, of six cases of rat lungworm disease on Maui and three cases on the Big Island have been reported.
According to spokeswoman for the Department of Health, Janice Okubo, three possible cases in Maui are under investigation along with one possible case in Hawaii.
The state usually reports one to nine cases of lungworm each year. In 2007, two related deaths were reported.
Okubo said: “The investigation is fluid and the cluster of cases, though not all confirmed, are very concerning.”
How each person gets infected is not known by the state, however, they know that most people could get the disease by consuming raw or undercooked snails and slugs.
What is rat lungworm disease?
Rat lungworm disease, also known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is a parasite that affects the brain and the spinal cord, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the department of infectious diseases and pathology at the University of Florida, rat lungworm disease has “been endemic in Hawaii for at least 50 years.”
The disease can also be transmitted by ingesting crabs, shrimp and frogs, but those cases are less common. There are also the extreme rare cases of contamination from water.
Walden said: “Angiostrongylus cantonensis can present differently in adults and children. So usually, in adults, one of the main things that you hear complaint of is a headache. Adults commonly report neck stiffness, nausea and vomiting, she added.
She continued saying that in children, it’s more the nausea and vomiting, not so much the headache. They will also run fevers and feel abdominal pain more than adults.
The person infected can stay ill for two weeks to two months. While the incubation period lasts between one to three weeks, however, an infection can incubate in only a single day or in six weeks.
This is not a contagious disease, so people cannot transmit it to one another.
Spokeswoman for the CDC’s Center for Global Health, Amy Rowland said that the agency is monitoring the situation in Hawaii, but it cannot comment on the investigation.