The health officials in Hawaii has been alerting people about the infection caused by rare rat lungworm. The parasitic nematode worm called Angiostrongylus cantonensis can cause infection, hence the people should avoid touching the snails with bare hands. Experts think that the climate change and globalization have led to rapid spread of the rat lungworm infection across the United States.
Apart from Hawaii, other states that are affected by rat lungworm infection are California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida. The disease was first reported in the year 1994, in Taiwan, but now it has spread in the United States due to rats present in cargo ships.
The parasite is named as rat lungworm because it grows in lungs, brain, and blood of rats. The parasite invades the human brain by indirect means which can cause meningitis whose symptoms are tremors, pain and inflammation in the body. Sometimes it can also prove fatal.
The symptoms of the infection can vary globally and it is also difficult to diagnose and there is no treatment available to treat the disease.
Some of the symptoms of the disease are as follows:
The light sensitivity, neck stiffness, severe headache, vomiting are some common symptoms that can start after six weeks when the worm has entered our body.
People eating unhealthy and contaminated fruits and vegetables and also raw or undercooked snails can contract meningitis.
Snails and slugs are the carriers of the disease
The rat lungworm grows inside the blood vessels of rats lungs but the larvae can be present in their droppings which are eaten by the snail and other animals through which they pass inside the human body.
As mentioned earlier, the disease is difficult to diagnose and treat because even the blood test cannot detect the infection. If an anti-parasitic drug is given to the patient, it can kill the worm as well as it can damage the patient’s brain and nervous system.
The factors that spread the parasite
It is seen that Globalization and parasite have led to the spread of the disease. The brain-invading parasite is found in the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Pacific islands but now it has spread across the globe. Experts say that climate change like global warming and globalization has led to various diseases like Zika virus.