‘Rat Lungworm’ Spreads In Florida, How To Avoid It Infection?
The rat lungworm is a parasite that lives in rats and snails. And can Infect the human brain when being contaminated has been found throughout Florida, according to a new study.
The researchers found the parasite, called rat lungworm , living in rats and snails in five Florida counties in both the central and northern parts of the state. Rat lungworm was previously found in southern Florida, and the new study is one of the first to show the extent of the parasite’s spread.
The researchers warned and predict that the parasite which is typically found in the tropics and only recently appeared in the continental United States, will likely continue to expand its range in this country.
The parasite carries out its life cycle in rats, snails and slugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). People can become infected if they eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs, or if they eat contaminated produce.
Infection Reaction Of Lungworm
In people, rat lungworm, or Angiostrongylus cantonensis , can infect the brain and cause meningitis, according to the CDC. Infected people may experience headaches, neck stiffness, nausea, vomiting, and abnormal sensations in their arms and legs. Most people fully recover without treatment, but in rare cases, the infection can cause neurological problems or death, the CDC said.
Although human cases of rat lungworm have yet to be reported in Florida, the researchers called for increased awareness of this parasite to help prevent infection and properly identify infected patients.
“The parasite is here in Florida and is something that needs to be taken seriously,” Heather Stockdale Walden, an assistant professor in the Department of Infectious Diseases and Pathology at the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, who led the study, said in a statement .Human cases of rat lungworm have occurred in Hawaii for more than 50 years, but it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the parasite appeared in the continental United States, showing up in rats in New Orleans. (The rats likely arrived on ships from areas already inhabited by the parasite.) Since then, rat lungworm has shown up in Louisiana and Texas. Previous studies have found the parasite in snails in Florida, but these studies were small.
In the new study, the researchers analyzed more than 1,500 samples from rats and snails in 18 counties throughout Florida. The investigators found that samples from five counties — Alachua, Leon, St. Johns, Orange and Hillsborough — tested positive for the parasite.
The reality is that it is probably in more counties than we found it in, and it is also probably more prevalent in the southeastern U.S. than we think,” Walden said.
Prevention To Lungworm Infection
To prevent infection with rat lungworm, the researchers recommended washing produce, teaching children not to eat raw snails and washing hands after handling snails. The CDC advises against eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs.