Newlyweds Contract Brain-Invading Parasite in Maui

When you pack your bags for paradise, you aren't expecting to bring back more than some beautiful photos and a few souvenirs from the trip.

For one California couple, this trip got their new marriage off to a rough start.

Ben Manilla and his wife Eliz Lape believe they contracted the rat lungworm disease while on their 2-week honeymoon in the Hana area of Maui earlier this year.

“It was a perfect two weeks,” Lape said. “What we came home with wasn’t perfect.”

Ben Manilla

The disease is a condition where the parasitic worm larvae infects people's brains. The disease is passed on to humans through unwashed produce or contaminated animals such as freshwater shrimp and land crab.

"My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body," Lape said. When the couple returned home to San Franscico they were both diagnosed with rat lungworm disease.

Manilla's symptoms appeared soon after and he was forced to spend a month in the ICU. Even after that, he is still undergoing intensive rehabilitation. He has already experienced several operations, 2 bouts pneumonia, a blood clot and kidney complications.

Maui News

The Hawaii Department of Health has confirmed 6 cases of this potentially life-threatening disease tied to Maui this year. There is a fear that this number may be under reported because of the large amount of tourists that visit the area.

"Had we known we were walking into this kind of environment, we would have had a completely different attitude," Lape said. "It really does disrupt and destroy people's lives."

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