Title: Rat Lungworm Parasite Detected in Brown Rats in Atlanta, Georgia
In a concerning discovery, researchers have found evidence of the rat lungworm parasite, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, in brown rats residing in Atlanta, Georgia. The presence of this worm, primarily found in Southeast Asia, Hawaii, and the Pacific Islands, poses a potential threat to human health if accidentally consumed.
Originating from rats on trade ships in the 1980s, this invasive worm has sporadically caused infections in various states across the continental U.S., including Texas, Tennessee, and Alabama. However, recent genetic analysis has confirmed the presence of A. cantonensis in four worm-infested rats in Atlanta, with matching sequences from lungworms in Louisiana.
Usually inhabiting the lungs of rats during adulthood, the larvae of these parasites can be transmitted through rat feces, potentially infecting snails and slugs. If humans consume raw or undercooked snails, slugs, or produce contaminated with the parasite, they can become infected.
Infection with the rat lungworm parasite can lead to a rare brain infection called eosinophilic meningitis. Symptoms of this condition include severe headaches, a stiff neck, and nausea. While most infections resolve without treatment, serious complications can occur.
To prevent rat lungworm infection, it is important to avoid consuming raw or undercooked snails, slugs, and potentially contaminated vegetables or juices. Thoroughly washing vegetables before consuming them raw can also help eliminate any potential pathogens.
The discovery of A. cantonensis in brown rats in Atlanta highlights the need for increased awareness and preventive measures to protect against this parasitic infection. As rat lungworm cases continue to sporadically occur across different states, it is crucial to stay informed and take necessary precautions to safeguard our health.
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