The Honolulu Advertiser has an excellent article on the recent epidemic here on the Big Island:
The rat lungworm disease that put two Big Island residents into comas is bringing attention to an illness confirmed in 33 reported cases in Hawai’i since 2001…
The state Health Department knows of 33 cases from 2001 to now. But state epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park said it is not known how many people have suffered through a milder form of the disease. Total reported Hawai’i cases before 2000 weren’t available late last week.
Symptoms can range from headache, joint pain and other symptoms that resolve on their own, to blindness, nerve damage and death.
Slugs and snails in Hawai’i are known to carry the rat lung-worm, a nematode named because it hatches in the lungs of rats. From there, the larvae pass through rat feces to slugs, snails or other mollusks. People who ingest snails or slugs that contain the parasite can get a rare form of meningitis — infection of the spinal fluid.