Tourism chief re­as­sures vis­i­tors af­ter lat­est rat lung­worm cases

Hawaii Tribune Herald - - NEWS -

Af­ter a re­cent in­crease in re­ported cases of rat lung­worm dis­ease, the Hawaii Tourism Author­ity is work­ing to re­as­sure cur­rent and po­ten­tial vis­i­tors that the dis­ease is rare and pre­ventable.

There have been 11 con­firmed cases of rat lung­worm dis­ease so far this year.

On Wed­nes­day, two cases were con­firmed on the Big Is­land, adding to three other lo­cal cases, four Maui res­i­dent cases and two Maui vis­i­tor cases.

“Some na­tional me­dia at­ten­tion has been de­voted re­cently to rat lung­worm dis­ease in Hawaii, rais­ing con­cerns among vis­i­tors

and groups plan­ning trips to the Hawai­ian Is­lands,” said HTA Pres­i­dent and CEO Ge­orge Szigeti in a re­lease. “It is im­por­tant that peo­ple not over­re­act and gather re­li­able in­for­ma­tion be­fore making any as­sump­tions.”

Rat lung­worm is a trop­i­cal dis­ease caused by the ne­ma­tode An­giostrongy­lus can­to­nen­sis.

Peo­ple con­tract the dis­ease, which is car­ried by snails and slugs, and hosted for a por­tion of its life cy­cle in rats, by eat­ing unwashed pro­duce or ac­ci­den­tally eat­ing a snail.

Na­tion­wide, Puna is con­sid­ered the epi­cen­ter of rat lung­worm dis­ease. One of the dis­ease’s main vec­tors, the semi-slug, has been on Hawaii Is­land since 2004.

On Wed­nes­day, the state Depart­ment of Health is­sued a re­lease not­ing the re­cent cases were con­cern­ing be­cause they were eas­ily pre­ventable with “ba­sic pre­cau­tions such as stor­ing food in cov­ered con­tain­ers and prop­erly in­spect­ing and wash­ing food be­fore eat­ing.”

“On the rec­om­men­da­tion of the state Depart­ment of Health, res­i­dents and vis­i­tors of Hawaii can be as­sured there is noth­ing to fear about get­ting in­fected as long as they use smart com­mon sense when wash­ing, pre­par­ing and stor­ing food,” Szigeti said.

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