Brain Invading Worms Concern Experts; Outbreak Must Be Avoided [Video]By Ava Jones, UniversityHerald Reporter
A dramatic increase of "rat lungworm" cases in Maui alarm health officials. In the last decade, there were only two reported cases in the island. These brain invading worms can lead to neurological problems, and in some worse cases, death.
There is no treatment for rat lungworm, and it is difficult to diagnose, ARS Technica reported. Three from the six cases were confirmed by the state of Hawaii, and there is a possibility of a seventh case. One of the patients said the parasites were in the lining of her brain, and is moving around.
Tricia Mynar, 47, told reporters that the sensation the parasites bring makes her feel like someone is opening the top of her head, and then sets a hot iron in her brain to steam it up, Civil Beat reported. Rat lungworm, comes from rats infected by parasitic roundworms. When the infected rats excrete the worm larvae through their feces, it will then be eaten up by land crabs, slugs, lizards, snails, and freshwater shrimp.
People who happen to come in contact any of these infected critters will get the parasite too. They might touch these critters, or eat produce contaminated by the snails, lizards, and slugs. The uptick of cases in Maui is attributed to the significant increase of the population of "semi-slug," which are invasive and are good carrier of the parasite.
Now that they have been alerted with the surge of the slug's population, residents are reporting seeing these semi-slugs in their gardens. They have also been taking steps to curb the increasing numbers of these slugs. According to researchers, the rising population of these slugs are expected due to climate change and the spike in global travel among parasites.
The first case of the brain invading worms was reported back in 1944 in Taiwan. The parasite was spread all over the globe during World War II. After that, rat lungworm became prevalent in certain parts of Southeast Asia and Islands in the Western Pacific.