Hawaiian health officials worried over increasing brain-invading parasite infections

Hawaiian health officials worried over increasing brain-invading parasite infections

Health officials in the Hawaiian island of Maui have warned members of the public that infections stemming from a parasitic worm that invades the human brain are on the rise.

In the past three months, at least half a dozen cases of disease of rat lungworm caused by parasitic roundworm Angiostrongylus cantonensis have been confirmed in Maui. Many more cases of the infection are currently under investigation.

The increasing number of infections caused a big concern among the health officials as the island had experienced just two documented cases of the infection in the decade before this outbreak.

The degree of pain inflicted by the parasitic worm varies from time to time and affects various parts of the body in different ways. When it is extreme, it becomes almost unbearable.

Tricia Mynar, an infected mother of three, said, “It was like someone suddenly took a lei needle and pushed it through the soft spot on top of my head, then pushed it down below my left ear, then up to my left temple, then moved from back to front behind my right eye. As the lei needle pain shot out through my right eye there were flashing white lights.”

The infection spreads when rats carrying the parasite emit larvae of the roundworm in their faeces. It can be picked up by creatures like slugs, snails, crabs and freshwater shrimp. If an individual handles or consumes any of these infected animals, he or she too can become infected.

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