Legislation to address Rat Lungworm Disease, HB474 HD1, crossed over last week where it is being considered by the Senate. The Hawai‘i State Department of Health urges the public to take the following 10 precautions to prevent rat lungworm disease:

  1. Carefully inspect and wash and all fruits and vegetables under running water, especially leafy greens, in order to remove any tiny slugs or snails, regardless of whether the produce came from a local retailer, farmers’ market or backyard garden.
  2. Wash fruit before peeling or cutting it. Even if the fruit has a rind you won’t be eating, like pineapple, it should be scrubbed before being sliced so there’s no chance of contamination as the knife passes through the rind or peel into the edible flesh.
  3. Store all food and drinks in sealed containers to prevent contamination.
  4. Cook your produce. Heating veggies to at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 15 minutes will kill any parasites.
  5. Control snail, slug and rat populations—especially around home gardens—to curtail the spread of rat lungworm disease. Make sure to follow label instructions when using bait, and keep pets and children away.
  6. Gardeners, farmers, food handlers and processors should increase diligence in controlling slugs, snails and rats on the farm and in processing/packaging facilities.
  7. Don’t drink from the garden hose. Tiny slugs and snails can crawl into the hose opening and be swallowed.
  8. Supervise children playing outside, especially while on the ground. Watch what they put into their mouths and make sure they aren’t accidentally eating slugs, snails or other pests.
  9. Scrub hands, nails and forearms after playing or working outdoors.
  10. Cover water catchment tanks to make absolutely sure slugs and snails cannot get in.

Bottom line this parasite eats holes in your brain. Young snails are as dangerous as adults and young ones are to small to see without a microscope. You can get infected by handling a slug or by steping on its slime. Best precaution is sanitation. Wash, wash and wash again all leafy vegetables. Wash nails, hands and forearms after working in the garden.

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To track Legislation in the current session (2018) of the Hawaii State Legislatue click the bill number:

HB474 HD1 – Relating to rat lungworm disease. Addresses the increase of reported cases of rat lungworm disease in Hawaii by appropriating funds for the prevention and eradication of rat lungworm disease, including developing clinical guidelines and conducting case studies on rat lungworm disease patients.