Rat Lungworm Infected Slug Found In Homemade Kava On Hawaii island

By Rie Oshiro

Six Big Island locals were recently hospitalized after drinking some homemade kava.  It wasn’t the quality of the kava that made them sick, but rather what they found sitting at the bottom.  A slug.  A slug carrying vicious parasites that would infect two of the six patients.

This is not the only case of Rat Lungworm disease in the past couple months.  There has been a recent spike of Rat Lungworm in Hawaii with almost nine infected this year already.  While this parasite has long been found here on the islands, it had only infected 58 people since 2005 to 2016.

Hawaii State Department Of Health
Rat Lungworm Disease Press Conference

Rat Lungworm is spreading and could become the next huge epidemic if not diagnosed and prevented properly.  In order to avert disaster, let’s look at the symptoms and possible prevention techniques.

So, what is Rat Lungworm disease?  It is a parasitic malady bred in rats, spread through their feces to snails, and ingested by humans, causing infection.  In many instances where the disease is contracted, the victim’s food was not washed properly.

what is rat lungworm

Preventing Rat Lungworm is a very simple task.  All one has to do is wash their produce.  Thoroughly.  When you’re at the sink, washing your leafy greens, make sure to have some glasses on and to be aware for slugs.  If you want to be extra careful, avoid produce when out in public unless you are sure it has been conscientiously washed for slugs.

Prevention techniques in your own yard:

  • Pesticides
  • Keep large planks of wood away from produce (This way slugs will have nowhere to hide)
  • Place bowls of beer around your yard (The slugs are drawn to the beer and will drown in it)
  • Pick up the slugs yourself with gloves on, at night when they are active, and throw them out


This parasite is challenging to diagnose, as the onset symptoms look similar to the flu.  Symptoms include headache, fever, joint pain, and fatigue.  As it progresses, the skin could turn itchy, as if something is crawling beneath it, and will become very sensitive.  If left untreated, this disease could lead to blindness, paralysis, coma, or even death.  This list of ghastly symptoms aren’t there to cause a fright, but rather push towards awareness and a better understanding of what you can do to prevent Rat Lungworm in the first place.


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