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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, February 22, 2010

UH issues directive on lungworm contamination

Advertiser Staff

A UH release about the information sheet notes that several 2009 instances of Hawai'i residents getting seriously ill with eosinophilic meningitis drew public attention to this "foodborne threat."

The meningitis was caused by people eating fresh produce contaminated with snails or slugs infected with the nematode parasite Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm.

The UH information summarizes research done into the disease and how the nematode that causes it is transmitted from rats to slugs and snails and then to humans who eat contaminated agricultural products.

The publication emphasizes controlling rat, snail and slug populations around farms and gardens and advises throwing away produce that has snails, slugs or their slime on them.

It also advises consumers to wash fresh produce carefully, while looking for any signs of snails, slugs or slime. Also advised: thorough cooking of any frogs, freshwater shrimp, and land crabs and careful cleaning of food preparation surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.

The publication authors are from CTAHR, the UH Pacific Biosciences Research Center, and U.S. Department of Agriculture and was reviewed by the state Department of Health.

Copies of the information sheet can be obtained at CTAHR extension offices on all islands, by calling the CTAHR publications office at 808-956-7036, or online at http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/oc/freepubs/pdf/FST-39.pdf.