‘RAT LUNGWORM DISEASE’
In late March of 2011 a 10 month old girl on the north side of Sydney became lethargic and could not sleep. A week later she was in intensive care and she died around Easter. The doctors had no idea of the cause until the autopsy was released recently showing she had contracted rat lungworm from an infected slug, most probably from crawling across its trail.
WARNING: Wear gloves when servicing rodent bait stations
In 2010 a 21 year old man ate a slug as a dare and became critically ill prompting NSW Health put out the media release dated 13th May 2010 reproduced and downloadable here. There have been at least two other cases of rat lungworm disease in children in the last year.
Rat lungworm disease – a type of meningitis – is caused by a parasitic nematode (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that lives in the pulmonary arteries of rats (hence the name of the disease). It is common in South-East Asia and the Pacific Islands. The nematode larvae are excreted in the rodent droppings which are often eaten by slugs and snails. These are the primary intermediate hosts, where the larvae develop until they are infective. Humans may become accidental hosts by eating raw or undercooked snails or slugs or from contaminated water or vegetables. Once in a person, the larvae travel with the blood to the Central Nervous System where they may cause eosinophilic meningitis (swelling of the brain) that can lead to death or permanent brain or nerve injury. Most commonly the body’s immune system is able to reject the nematode without it affecting the body.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
This again shows the importance of personal safety diligence required by urban pest managers. Rodent droppings and urine carry diseases. You should wear gloves and a dust mask when servicing rodent bait stations. Also protect your customers and their families. Evidence of low level outdoor rat infestations in suburbia can be hard to find. Most houses have places where rodent bait can be safely located outside the main building, especially in the shed which is a common shelter for rodents. If you notice snails or slug trails when you are doing your next inspection what should you recommend to your customer? Ask your local Garrards branch for advice on treating rodents outdoors and snail and slugs in the garden.