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Rat Lung Disease

Posted May 20 2009 1:20pm 1 Comment
There truly is an outbreak of “Rat Lung” disease on the Big Island in Hawaii. (Yes, humans can get this meningitis like disease.) Signs of rat lung worm disease, which can affect the brain and spinal cord as the larvae travel through those tissues, can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and back, tingling skin, and hallucinations. Some infected people don’t exhibit symptoms, or experience mild symptoms for a short time. But what is "Rat Lung" disease?

What is Angiostrongylus cantonensis?
Angiostrongylus cantonensis (Ann-gee-o-stronge-uh-luss can-tun-en-sis) is a parasitic worm of rats. It is also called the rat lungworm. The mature (adult) form of the parasite is found only in rodents (it is not found in people). Infected rats pass immature forms (larvae) of the parasite in their feces. Snails and slugs get infected by ingesting the larvae in rat feces. These larvae mature in snails and slugs but do not become adult worms. The life cycle comes full circle when rats eat infected snails or slugs and the larvae further mature to become adult worms.

Can people get infected with this parasite?
Yes. People can get infected, under unusual circumstances. However, even if infected, most people recover fully without treatment.

How can people get infected?
People can get infected by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs that are infected with this parasite. In some cultures, snails are commonly eaten. Some children, in particular, have gotten infected by swallowing snails/slugs “on a dare.” People also can get infected by accident, by eating raw produce (such as lettuce) that contains a small snail or slug or part of one.

Other ways of getting infected may include eating raw or undercooked freshwater prawns, crabs, or frogs. Of note, fish do not spread this parasite.

How can you control this disease?

Washing the produce thoroughly will hopefully prevent rat lung worm disease. But. you can safely prevent/control rats, snails and slugs by reading my free IPM Manual entitled: THE BEST CONTROL II at:

All the best, Steve
Comments (1)
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abbymae says:
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I have been reading about rat lung disease in slugs. My two questions relate to chickens eating slugs. Will chicken’s eggs carry the rat lung disease from eating slugs? Are the chicken’s digestive system harsh enough to exterminate the rat lung disease in their excrement?

Thank you.

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