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Practice Safe Produce Handling - Rat Lungworm is still a Concern

Updated: Feb 5, 2021

You can get rat lungworm by eating food contaminated by larval stage A. cantonensis worms. In Hawaii, these larval worms can be found in raw or undercooked produce that contains residue from infected slugs. Symptoms of rat lungworm include fever, severe headache and body pain, tingling or painful sensation on the skin, nausea and vomiting. The disease damages the nervous systems and its effects can be severe and long lasting, in some rare cases even leading to death.

The best way to prevent getting rat lungworm is to wash your produce thoroughly and then cook it or freeze it, which kills the virus. When eating raw produce such as salad, take extra care to rinse and rub clean each lettuce leaf individually. The farmers we buy our lettuce from grow their greens hydroponically in greenhouses and treat their property for slugs. This helps to keep us safe by reducing the chance that our produce has been exposed to slugs in the first place, but in such a wet and verdant climate it is impossible to guarantee. Take the extra step toward keeping yourself and your family safe from this scary disease by double and triple washing any produce you intend to eat raw.

To stay informed, visit the State of Hawai’i Disease Outbreak Control Division:

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