Richard Ha writes:
Yesterday’s Hawaii Tribune-Herald had a front-page article about people contracting a rare form of meningitis caused by ingesting uncooked snails and slugs that carry a microscopic worm called the rat lungworm.
Symptoms are very severe and have been associated with eating uncooked, organic lettuce that has live slugs or snails on them.
At Hamakua Springs, we have been aware of this disease for many years. We don’t want you to worry about our lettuce!
We long ago implemented control measures. The rat lungworm completes its lifecycle by going from rats to snails and then back again, and it’s important to break that cycle. We do that by using a combination of slug bait and rat traps.
Our hydroponic system of growing actually makes controlling slugs much easier than if we grew our products in soil.
There have been incidents of meningitis caused by rat lungworm on all the major islands, but they seem to be the most concentrated in lower Puna. One woman is still in a coma and some of the severe symptoms are excruciating pain for hours on end.
This is an interesting video about the problem, taken at an informational community meeting in Puna. It shows the slug and snail life cycle and discusses prevention recommendations. Aaron Ueno, of the Hawaii Department of Health, is also shown speaking to the community.