When it comes to parenting, my mom has always erred on the protective side. Just recently, she sent me some news articles about rat lung-worm disease in Hawaii, urging me to take precautions and to protect our family.

Rat lungworm is a disease that affects the brain and spinal cord, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH). It is only found in rodents, but those rodents can spread the disease to other hosts such as snails, slugs, frogs and other animals, says the state DOH. Humans can contract the disease by consuming a raw or undercooked host. If infected, people can experience no symptoms at all or very severe symptoms resulting in temporary paralysis or, in rare cases, death.


Luckily, there are ways to prevent contracting rat lung-worm at home — even if you have little ones that like to put everything in their mouths.

Eliminate the hosts

If you have rats in or around your house, call an exterminator to set up traps. The same goes for slugs. Slugs like to hide in damp, dark places like under rocks or flowerpots. Check under these areas daily, and pick them off while wearing rubber gloves. Place them in a plastic bag, seal, and toss. You can set up slug traps by placing some decaying fruit under a board, which will attract them.

Mouths off the hose

Health officials have been warning parents for more than a year to stop your kids from drinking out of the garden hose. According to the state DOH, snails or slugs could be hiding inside.

Wash your produce


Sometimes people like to skip washing kiwis, water-melon, cantaloupe and the like because we don’t eat the peel. However, once you cut into it, your knife can spread contaminates to the fruit as soon as it penetrates the skin. Wash before you peel, and don’t consume any part of the fruit that has been exposed. When it comes to washing, be aware that there are no definitive studies that have shown which products will cause slugs and snails to drop off produce in a wash, according to the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy.

Avoid raw

The Public Health Agency of Canada says that the infectiousness of foods can be inactivated by either boiling or freezing. Freeze in 5 degrees Fahrenheit for 12-24 hours or boil for at least two to three minutes. Do this with produce, prawns, cray-fish and crabs. Fish have not been known to carry rat lung-worm, so don’t worry about consuming poke or sashimi.

Have a comment or question for Joanne? Email her at thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.