Rare Disease Outbreak In Hawaii Puts Tourists On Alert

Recently in the U.S, there's been an outbreak of a rare disease, angiostrongyliasis, caused by one of the world's most dangerous parasites, rat lungworm.

Although it is classified as a rare illness, there's been an abnormal spike in infections this year in Hawaii. The Hawaii Department of Health confirmed 11 cases of the disease which is more than the yearly average of 9.

The parasite is usually found in rat feces and spreads through snails and slugs. Humans contract the disease by ingesting contaminated food or drinks.

The worm infects the brain and triggers symptoms like "severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, seizures, and neurologic abnormalities."

Tricia Mynar was diagnosed with the disease and she likened the "every day" pain to that of childbirth.  

"It was like someone stuck an ice pick in my collarbone, in my chest and in the back of my neck. The majority is in your head and the pain is just excruciating," the mother-of-three told KHON TV.

When Tricia first got infected, she said "it was like people pushing needles "in my back, pushing forward from my shoulder blades all the way to my lungs" and out "the front of my chest."

This echos the sentiment of another victim of the illness, Eliz Lape. Eliz and her husband were on their honeymoon in Maui when they got the disease.

"My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body," Eliz said.

Both Tricia and Eliz have since recovered from the awful disease but it wasn't without permanent damage to their bodies. They are now speaking out about their experiences to warn others about this potentially fatal but preventable disease.

"I would never want anyone to experience this," said Tricia.

Hawaii State Senator and physician Josh Green believes that proper washing of food prior to consumption can protect you from getting infected. "It can affect your lettuce. It can affect your vegetables. That's why you've got to either cook the heck out of these slugs or probably snails, because I don't think people are eating slugs, or really wash your lettuce," he said.

There have been no reported cases anywhere else in the U.S. But if you're ever visiting Hawaii make sure you incorporate proper washing and hygiene techniques in your daily routine. It can save your life.

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