East Maui Rat Lungworm Disease Task Force

It is safe to eat local East Maui produce, just take basic precautions!

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to wash your produce with running water and inspect it carefully, and to cook it. Especially leafy greens, like kale, that has many folds for slugs to hide in. Rinsing with running water washes the slug off, and cooking kills the parasite that causes the disease.

Education, prevention, research and vector control are the goals of this task force.

Several Rat Lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) disease cases have been documented in East Maui in early 2017. This has caused great concern among residents and visitors.

An emergency community meeting held by the Department of Health in April 2017 drew approx. 200 attendees, and a follow-up meeting for agricultural producers was attended by about 30 growers. Along with articles in local papers, CNN also picked up on the story of a tourist couple who was infected while visiting Hana.

We need to be proactive as a community with outreach and educational programs to share accurate and up-to-date information, both regarding proper and effective produce handling, and vector control methods for growers (targeting both rats and mollusks), in order to prevent further spread of the disease.

Because fear of the disease is having a real impact on our local agricultural producers, we also need to share a message of food safety to restore consumer confidence, encouraging consumers to continue supporting our local farmers as long as they take basic precautions to prevent the disease, including washing and cooking or freezing produce.

We have taken the initiative to establish a task force for RLW response in East Maui. Through the Hawaii Farmers Union United-Hana Chapter, under the umbrella of the Hawaii Farmers Union Foundation, we have received funding from Hawaii Community Foundation to hire two part-time RLW response coordinators, and purchase supplies for vector control kits to be distributed in the community.

As part of that effort, we have established this website as a way to consolidate current and accurate information and resources for residents and visitors, and facilitate the coordinated response to prevent the further spread of RLW disease in East Maui.

Success will require participation from the entire community.  If you live in East Maui, please contact us to learn about all the different ways you can participate.