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Public Informational Meeting on Rat Lungworm Disease on Molokai

The Hawai‘i State Department of Health (DOH), Maui District Health Office, will hold a public informational meeting on rat lungworm disease on Tuesday, May 30, 2017 at the Mitchell Pauole Community Center on Molokaʻi from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The meeting will include an opportunity for the public to ask questions.

A number of public health experts and community partners will be present to share their findings and recommendations on preventing the spread of rat lungworm, including Lorrin W. Pang, M.D., Maui District Health Officer; Sara Routley, Health Educator; Alton Arakaki from the University of Hawai‘i’s College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources (CTAHR); Harmonee Williams of Sustʻaina-ble Molokaʻi; and Lori Buchanan from the Nature Conversancy of Hawai‘i.

Rat lungworm is a rare disease caused by the parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis which is found in rats, slugs and snails. The disease affects the brain and spinal cord and occurs when a person ingests raw or undercooked snails or slugs or unwashed raw produce such as leafy greens. To date, DOH has confirmed 15 cases of the illness in Hawai‘i for 2017, including nine (9) from Hawai‘i Island, four (4) Maui residents and two (2) Maui visitors.

DOH has launched a number of initiatives to address rat lungworm. Together with partner agencies, community meetings have been held across Maui to educate the public on rat lungworm and to share best practices on the prevention of this disease, including the proper care and washing of produce, as well as rodent and slug control. DOH food safety inspectors have also worked with permitted food establishments on hygiene and food preparation, and medical advisories were sent to physicians and hospitals to increase awareness of the disease. DOH is planning future public information efforts to educate residents and visitors about rat lungworm.

The informational meeting on Moloka‘i is also supported by Rosie Davis from Huli Au Ola Area Health Education Center (AHEC); Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa and staff; Luana Alcon from the Maui County Parks & Recreation-Moloka‘i District; Margaret Makekau and DOH staff-Moloka‘i Office; State Senator J. Kalani English; and State Representative Lynn DeCoite.

Please call the AHEC at (808) 646-9037 or the DOH Maui District Health Office at (808) 984-8201 for more information on the meeting.

A Message From Senator Kahele – Rat Lungworm Disease

Aloha,

For this week’s legislative update, I want to focus on Senate Bill 272, Senate Draft 2, House Draft 1 (SB272 SD2 HD1), Relating to Rat Lungworm Disease. With the recent flurry of news stories covering Rat Lungworm Disease in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Civil Beat and even the Atlantic, I feel it particularly important to update you on what the legislature is doing to address the situation.

SB272 SD2 HD1 appropriates an unspecified amount of funds to the University of Hawai`i at Hilo for programs, studies, and activities related to the prevention and eradication of rat lungworm disease. We know that we have to appropriately fund these efforts to put an end to this menace.

Currently, SB272 SD2 HD1 has passed third reading in the House. The Senate has already communicated its disagreement to the HD1 version because it changes the effective date to July 31, 2150. This strategy is known as “defecting the effective date” and either kills the bill or forces it into conference since it is a forgone conclusion that neither house will pass a bill with such an unrealistic implementation date.

Hopefully, this bill will go to conference. If it does, Representative Richard Creagan and I will likely be the lead-chairs for the conference committee and we’ll be able to work with our colleagues to put out a draft both houses can support.

As we move forward, stay up-to-date on this effort by following its progress on our capitol website or our weekly updates. Mahalo for all your support!

Me ka ha’aha’a,
Kaiali’i Kahele