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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: POSTHARVEST TREATMENT OF TROPICAL COMMODITIES FOR QUARANTINE SECURITY, QUALITY MAINTENANCE, AND VALUE ENHANCEMENT

Location: Tropical Crop and Commodity Protection Research

Title: Best On-Farm Food Safety Practices: Risks Associated with Rat Lungworm and Human Eosinophilic Meningitis

Authors
item Hollyer, James -
item Troegner, Vanessa -
item Cowie, Robert -
item Hollingsworth, Robert
item Nakamura-Tengan, Lynn -
item Castro, Luisa -
item Buchholz, Arlene -

Submitted to: Extension Publications
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: January 6, 2010
Publication Date: February 2, 2010
Citation: Hollyer, J.R., Troegner, V.A., Cowie, R.H., Hollingsworth, R.G., Nakamura-Tengan, L.C., Castro, L.F., Buchholz, A. 2010. Best On-Farm Food Safety Practices: Risks Associated with Rat Lungworm and Human Eosinophilic Meningitis. Extension Publications.

Interpretive Summary: Human cases of rat lungworm disease have become more common in recent years in Hawaii. This disease is caused by a nematode that lives in slugs and snails for part of its life cycle, and in rats for another part of its life cycle. The disease in humans is usually caused by accidental consumption of a slug or snail, or part of one, on fruits and vegetables that are consumed fresh (not cooked). This publication discusses hosts for the nematode, symptoms of the disease, and measures to prevent contamination of fruits and vegetables. Procedures for mitigating risks on commercial farms or in home gardens include controlling rats, controlling slugs and snails, and thorough inspection and washing of fruits and vegetables that are to be consumed raw.

Technical Abstract: Recent cases of eosinophilic meningitis in Hawai’i have drawn attention to a food-borne parasitic infection that occurs in Hawai‘i, the Pacific Islands, southern and eastern Asia, and elsewhere. In late 2008, the Hawai‘i Department of Health reported that four people on the island of Hawai‘i had been infected by a nematode species called rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) after eating fresh produce grown there. Despite these recent incidents in Hawai‘i, the worldwide incidence of rat lungworm infection (angiostrongyliasis) and the incidence of the accompanying illness (eosinophilic meningitis) is low. Since 1945, there have been fewer than 3000 documented cases worldwide, with most of them occurring in Thailand and China. Angiostrongyliasis typically results from accidental ingestion of the parasitic worm. The nematode has a complex life cycle involving certain developmental stages in rats and certain developmental stages in slugs or snails. This publication discusses hosts for the nematode, symptoms of the disease, and sanitation measures to prevent contamination of fruits and vegetables. Procedures for mitigating risks on commercial farms or in home gardens include controlling rats, controlling slugs and snails, and thorough inspection and washing of fruits and vegetables that are to be consumed raw.

Last Modified: 7/24/2014
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