Rat lungworm cases have broken out in Hawaii causing serious concern among health experts.
HEALTH officials in the US have issued an urgent warning about brain-invading worms capable of sneaking into human skulls and killing you.
Medics in Hawaii have been warning people not to touch snails or slugs with their bare hands as the beasts carry a parasite called rat lungworm.
In two hundreds years, there have been only two reports of rat lungworm infections on the island.
But in the past three months, six more cases have cropped up in close succession.
The parasite has also popped up in California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida.
And now there are concerns that the worm — which experts claim could be caused by climate change — could spread globally.
Rat lungworm is a parasite that begins its life as an infection in rat’s blood, brains and lungs.
Rats defecate its worm larvae, which is then spread to snails, slugs and seafood.
Humans might eat one of these infected hosts and within weeks their brain could be invaded.
Once it lodges in the brain it can cause meningitis and symptoms like pain, swelling and tremors.
It is often fatal.
Doctors tend to treat it with a combination of therapies including antiparasitic drugs, cortical steroids and supportive care.
Tricia Mynar, a resident of Maui and a preschool worker, told Honolulu Civil Beat: “The parasites are in the lining of my brain, moving around.”
“Tremors are the hardest part,” she said. “They affect me so badly that sometimes I can’t hear my own speech.”
Rat lungworms burrow into your bloodstream before making their way to your brain.Source:Supplied
A report in the Maui News revealed how residents are terrified of catching the worm.
Kawika Kaina said that the culprit breed of slug had lived near their homes for years, but they figured the slugs were like any other snail.
It was only on receipt of a flyer from the Department for Health that he realised how serious the problem had become.
“It really did hit close to home. Just recently a lot of folks in Hana (Hawaii) have become more aware of it and a lot more people are finding it in their yard,” he said.
Burning, smashing or even burying the worms have so far not successfully deterred rats from ingesting them and restarting the cycle.
And experts fear that deforestation and climate change could spread the disease further afield.