Published: Tue, April 11, 2017
Health Care | By Jeffery Armstrong

Lethal Brain Disease Seen in Hawaii (STAT News)

Lethal Brain Disease Seen in Hawaii (STAT News)

Rats are known for carrying the rat lungworm. The rise in the number of infections is being blamed both on climate change and globalization. There are other states, like Florida, Louisiana, Alabama and California, where the parasite has appeared.

Researchers discovered a rare parasite which attacks the brain. A parasitic nematode, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, begins its life as an infection found in the lungs of rats lungs, their blood, or their brains, is behind humans getting the disease. Clearing snails, slugs and rats from gardens and other outdoor spaces can also prevent the spread of the worm. Humans might eat one of these infected hosts or they might eat produce that has had the worm transferred to it by a host. According to Park, burning, smashing or even burying them have so far not successfully deterred rats from ingesting them and restarting the cycle.

Epidemiologist Sarah Park, of the Hawaii department of health, described the brain parasite infection as being "like having a slow-moving bullet go through your brain". The pain resulting from the rat lungworm infection also causes debilitating discomfort to the patient. Unfortunately, the severity of the illness can widely vary, and specialists claim that there is no treatment for this infection. The parasitic worm infection manifests headaches, neck stiffness, nausea, and vomiting.

To this date, there are as much as six confirmed cases of the rat lungworm parasite in Maui, as local website Maui News reported on Saturday.

"The slug is easy to kill, but the parasite, it's not so easy", he said.

In the past decade, there had been only two cases of the parasitic infection on the Valley Isle. Scientists fear that this is just another outcome of climate change.

As mentioned earlier, the disease is hard to diagnose and treat because even the blood test can not detect the infection. Also, there is now no treatment for the disease.

This parasite is prevalent in the tropical Pacific islands as well as in Southeast Asia. Since then, the brain parasite has spread all around the globe, and eventually, it was introduced to North America, due to globalization. Experts are blaming its sudden spread across the United States on climate change and globalisation. Six cases of the disease have reportedly been confirmed in Maui so far in the last three months.

The parasite, called rat lungworm or Angiostrongylus cantonensis, can infect the brain and cause meningitis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Numerous cases could have been prevented, by taking precautions like washing one's hands after handling creatures that might be infected, and by making sure produce is washed and creatures that might be infected are thoroughly cooked before they are eaten.

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