Blog post

Rats Can Ruin Your Vacation, Too

Traveling to Hawaii this summer for a much needed vacation? Be aware of rat lungworm! This brain parasite is on the rise with six official cases confirmed so far this year.

Rat lungworm is a parasite that relies on rats and snails to complete its life cycle. In fact, it receives the name rat lungworm because of its infection of the pulmonary arteries in rodents.  Humans are dead-end, accidental hosts. Infection can occur by eating raw, under-cooked snails, or from contaminated produce. Once an infected worm is ingested, the juvenile worms migrate to the human brain and develop into the adult form. Unable to complete the life cycle, worms die and incite an inflammatory reaction that results in rare form of meningitis. With no diagnostic test available, early detection of this serious condition is key. Initial symptoms include a stiffness of the neck, nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and weakness. In many situations the disease often resolves on its own within 1-2 weeks, but without treatment, it can be fatal.

While rat lungworm is a relatively rare infection, the parasite is well documented in the United States.  It has been in Hawaii for decades but there have been a spike of documented cases within the last two years.  Fortunately, the parasite is relatively new to the mainland and no cases have been documented in California. To protect yourself on your tropical vacations this summer, be sure to inspect and wash all produce thoroughly with clean tap water. More information on rat lungworm.