Always Wash Fruits and Vegetables
Whether you’re picking them fresh from your own garden or buying them from the market, washing fruits and vegetables before eating them is a must. Not only because they may have bits of dirt or possibly even fecal matter but because they may be carrying parasitic worms!
Parasitic worms are literally everywhere; and if you’re not careful, you could allow these pests to enter your body without you even knowing. From the soil to food to bodies of water, they often lie in wait for their next victim. The worst thing is, each species affects the body in different ways and unfortunately, some are even more dangerous than others. And among the most terrifying parasitic worms is the rat lungworm.
What’s A Rat Lungworm?
The rat lungworm, scientifically known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, is a parasitic worm that normally infects rats but can also spread to snails and slugs that come into contact with infected rat feces. In humans, it’s known to cause a condition called Angiostrongyliasis, which affects the brain and the spinal cord. Sometimes, a rat lungworm infection can lead to brain inflammation, coma, and paralysis.
How Do Rat Lungworms Spread?
Infected rats excrete rat lungworm larvae in their feces. Then, snails and slugs that come into contact with the contaminated feces pick up the larvae and become infected themselves.
Humans can contract rat lungworms by ingesting (raw or undercooked) infected snails or slugs, or eating unwashed fruits or vegetables that have been contaminated with the slime of an infected snail or slug. People that have contracted rat lungworms, however, can’t pass the worms to other humans or animals.
What Are the Signs of a Rat Lungworm Infection?
While most infected people exhibit no signs of illness at all, some may develop mild to severe health issues, including headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting, body pain, stiffness in the neck area, and a tingling or painful sensation in the skin.
In some cases, a rat lungworm infection may also cause paralysis, and a condition known as eosinophilic meningitis—a rare form of meningitis (brain inflammation) that results from the buildup of eosinophils (a type of white blood cell) in the cerebrospinal fluid (fluid found in the brain and spinal cord).
How Is a Rat Lungworm Infection Diagnosed?
Since there are no blood tests that can detect the presence of rat lungworms inside the body, doctors usually take a sample of a potentially infected person’s blood or cerebrospinal fluid to see whether or not there are high levels of eosinophils. A higher than normal eosinophil count generally means that the person is infected.
How Is a Rat Lungworm Infection Treated?
Treatment for rat lungworm depends on the severity of the infection, as well as the symptoms that developed. Milder cases, like those simply experiencing headaches or a fever, are usually able to make a complication-free recovery without treatment.
However, if the infection causes potentially life-threatening problems, such as paralysis or eosinophilic meningitis, then hospitalization and specialized treatment is crucial.
How Can a Rat Lungworm Infection Be Prevented?
You can keep yourself from contracting rat lungworm infection by always washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, and making sure that you don’t ingest (whether accidentally or intentionally) live, raw, or undercooked snails or slugs.
If you have your own fruit or vegetable garden, remove snails or slugs the moment you see them. Doing so will not only protect you and your family but also your plants.
In addition, never forget to wash your hands thoroughly after gardening or cleaning the yard. If you have kids, make sure that they understand the risks of coming into contact with snails and slugs. If they’re not old enough to understand, then keep a close eye on them whenever they’re playing outside, and steer clear of places where there may be snails and slugs.