Four probable cases of rat lungworm infection have been detected on the Big Island.
Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Friday the cases are disturbing because the disease is usually found during the winter season.
East Hawaii epidemiological specialist Marlena Dixon says rat lungworm is a parasite that causes a rare form of meningitis and is difficult to diagnose because of a wide array of symptoms.
Symptoms can include severe headaches, nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness and numbness.
In a severe 2009 case former Big Island resident Graham McCumber spent three months in a coma.
Dixon says the disease can be contracted when people mistakenly eat small slugs on the surface of leafy green vegetables.
Slugs and snails become carriers when they eat feces of rats carrying the parasite.
SAND ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) – Hawaii’s largest shipment of Christmas trees from the mainland is here.
On Sunday morning, inspectors combed through them and they found some creatures who came along for the joy ride.
A salamander, some tree frogs, and a cricket are among the hitchhikers in this season’s shipment of Christmas trees.
But after all the shaking, and searching for invasive species at Matson’s Sand island terminal, it was a slimy guy who triggered a red flag.
“We found several slugs and we’re concerned about it being a problem here to our agriculture industry, environment and also public health and safety,” said Glenn Sakamoto, Plant Quarantine Inspector with the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
The state says the slug was found in 11 of the 62 containers.
The vendor has a choice. It can either treat the trees or send them back to the mainland.
This is the third shipment in three weeks.
In all, there are roughly 200 containers filled with more than 80,000 Christmas trees.
The state says that’s more than last year.
That’s because there was a shortage of trees, and people started air freighting them.
The state anticipates a bigger supply this year.
As for the little buggers, inspectors say if they have kamaaina family members, they get to stay in Hawaii.
“I hope the people in Hawaii are ready for it,” said Richard Tajiri.
It’s an annual tradition Richard Tajiri knows a lot about. Lining up to buy a Christmas Tree.
There is also an Aloha state tradition– agriculture department inspections.
“Well were looking for any type of invasive pests that could be hitchhiking along with the Christmas trees,” said Agriculture Department Inspector Glenn Sakamoto. “So like last year we had a few containers because of slugs that are not found here in Hawaii.”
Inspections that are already underway.
And dealers like Tajiri already know what they’re looking for.
“I’m probably the only one in Hawaii to go out and mark every tree that we bring in,” said Tajiri. “I tag every tree. You know if I see a tree out there and it’s got a little bit of yellow. You know I miss some, I’m not perfect. But I see some yellow and ah I don’t want a yellow tree because I know people in Hawaii don’t want a yellow tree.”
“Most of them are pretty clean,” said Sakamoto. “We have certain conditions that they have to follow before they come into Hawaii. So, they have to be shaken prior to coming into Hawaii. So, relatively coming in they have been relatively clean.”