CLOSE

Three cases of rat lungworm disease, a potentially debilitating parasite, have been confirmed in Hawaii. This CDC video explains how it spreads and how you can protect yourself.
USA TODAY

Three visitors to Hawaii's Big Island have been infected with rat lungworm disease, a potentially debilitating parasite, in recent months, according to health officials.

Hawaii's Ministry of Health announced Thursday that confirmation from the US Centers had been received for the disease control of the three cases and that they were unrelated.

The new cases bring the nationwide total to five, which were confirmed in 2019 and 10 in 2018, the health department said.

Angiostrongyliasis or rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasitic worm and can have serious effects on a person's brain and spinal cord. Most people are infected if they accidentally consume one of the worms, it says in the health department.

The most common symptoms include severe headaches and neck stiffness. More serious cases, however, can lead to neurological problems, severe pain and long-term disability. According to the CDC, some cases may cause a rare form of meningitis.

CDC: In the US, the parasitic termed rat-rat worm may be more common than thought

The parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis takes its name because it infests rats that attack its larvae spread in fecal matter, which are absorbed by snails and snails. Rats later eat the infected snails and snails, and then the larvae mature into adult worms, according to the CDC.

In Hawaii, the three unrelated cases came from people who consumed both snails and unwashed fruit or vegetables, health officials suspected. [19659005] In one case, a visitor intentionally ate a snail on a challenge in December 2018. The health department said the person was ill but was not hospitalized.

In a second case in February, the person became ill, but it was not confirmed how they became infected. According to the health department, the patient recalls having eaten homemade salads on holiday.

The third person who was hospitalized was probably infected by eating unwashed raw fruits or vegetables.

More: According to Australian media reports, a man is paralyzed after eating a snail.

Health authorities warned people to wash raw fruits and vegetables, especially leafy vegetables, and look for worms before eating them. [19659016] We received a notification from @CDCgov that his lab confirmed three unrelated cases of angiostrongyliasis or rat lungworm disease among visitors to the island of Hawaii. Learn more about the cases and how you can protect yourself at https://t.co/kOqqhOFyHa[19459035[pictwittercom/0bBfH5TYus[19659017[-HI-Health-((HIgov_Health) May 23, 2019