The following update was submitted to the Hanaside News for publication in the upcoming issue:
Rat Lungworm Update
Since rat lungworm (RLW) disease cases in East Maui made the news last April, and the Department of Health scheduled a well-attended community meeting, our residents have become much more aware of the risks of this disease, and the necessary steps to prevent it.
A diagnosis of rat lungworm infection can only be confirmed after examination of spinal fluid obtained by spinal tap (aka lumbar puncture or LP). Although the name “spinal tap” causes fear, the procedure is safe and relatively pain free if performed by an experienced physician (local lidocaine anesthesia provides numbness and the procedure is often described as less painful than taking a typical office blood sample). In addition, it usually provides relief from the headache associated with rat lungworm, excludes other serious conditions, and permits use of appropriate medications (prednisone with or without albendazole depending on how soon the diagnosis is made). Illnesses similar to rat lung worm may be confused with true rat lungworm infection, particularly if rat lungworm is a relatively mild case. While no new, severe cases have been officially diagnosed on Maui since spring 2017, relatively mild cases may still be occurring.
Thus, we must continue to be vigilant!
This is a preventable disease, and the best way to protect yourself and your family is to wash produce with running water to rinse off any slugs, and inspect it carefully; and to cook or freeze produce. This is especially important with leafy greens, like kale, that have many folds for slugs to hide in.
It is safe to eat local produce, and good to support our local farmers and grow our own home gardens, as long as we take basic precautions to prepare the food properly.
The Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation has received a grant from the Hawaii Community Foundation for RLW response in East Maui to help share education, and to work with farmers and home growers with slug and rat vector control information and supplies. If you would like to receive a farm or garden visit, or just receive some free vector control supplies like rat traps and slug bait, please contact Mikala Minn (269-7604) or Scott Crawford (281-2021). Volunteers for farm visits and tabling at community events are also needed.