Rat Lungworm and Snails Monday October 24, 2016
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Rat Lungworm Disease Transmitted via Snails

by Donna M. Walker

Here’s a very good reason not to eat snails … just in case you were thinking of picking one up and popping it into your mouth, yuck, right?!

Who would have thought the little slimes, with long beady eyes, could be such a health hazard?

You think you’re safe because you’d never eat a snail? Not so. …

Why? – Rats! They carry a parasite called “rat lungworm,” Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

The larvae of lungworm pass through a rat’s feces, a.k.a. rat droppings, snails then come in contact with the droppings, leaving trails of infected slime behind (grounds for washing lettuce, not once but thrice!).

The result, if infected, is meningitis. In humans, juvenile worms migrate to the brain; as adults, they live in the arterioles of the ileocecal area (blood vessels around a valve between the small and large intestines). Lovely.

Rat Lungworm uses rats as its host.

Rat Lungworms use rats as their  host.

Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly is the best preventative measure against Rat Lungworm disease.

If snails are not part of your diet then how do these worms get into your system? Remember, I mentioned washing your lettuce, not once but thrice? If you eat salad or raw vegetables that an infested snail has come in contact with, you could very well ingest the parasite.

Rat Lungworm disease causes Eosinophilic meningitis. Contaminated produce is the main culprit from trails of slime left by snails, slugs, and flatworms. And, it’s not just humans that can become infected; dogs, even horses have been known to become a host for Rat Lungworm.

Rat Lungworm – a parasite that can be transmitted to humans via snails.

Rat Lungworm – a parasite that can be transmitted to humans via snails.

Snails are also responsible for leaf damage to your plants!

Snails are also responsible for leaf damage to your plants!

Buying organic is great but that doesn’t mean an infected snail hasn’t crawled over the tomatoes or lettuce! Washing them thoroughly is the best preventative measure.

Buying organic is great but that doesn’t mean an infected snail hasn’t crawled over the tomatoes or lettuce!

Symptoms and Prevention

So what happens if your body is invaded with Rat Lungworm? Granted, this rarely happens but still, it does and the Center for Disease Control wants you to be aware of it.

Once ingested, it can take up to 3 weeks before you notice any changes in your body. These can range from flu-like symptoms to nerve pain, fever, nausea, and vomiting.

The lungworm travels through the bloodstream and into the brain. Eventually the parasite will die but it can be for several months and symptoms may last just as long.

The life cycle of Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm, and how humans can become infected.

The life cycle of Angiostrongylus cantonensis, the rat lungworm, and how humans can become infected.

Note: If you think you have been infected, contact your healthcare provider.

Prevention: Besides snails, you probably should refrain from eating frogs … Shrimp and prawns have also been infected by the parasite.

Rat Lungworm is completely preventable for humans. The key is to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. And when traveling, including Hawaii where there have been recent cases of this disease, avoid raw vegetables – oh, and Escargot too.

You might also consider controlling the amount of rats and snails around your property. For more information on rats, visit our page: Rats & Mice and Snail Control and Treatment

Hearts Pest Management can help. …

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