BERKELEY (CBS SF) – A Bay Area couple who recently married in Hawaii have undergone extensive medical treatment after contracting a brain-infecting parasite called rat lungworm disease.
According to CBS affiliate KGMB-TV, 64-year-old Ben Manilla and 57-year-old Eliza Lape tied the knot on Maui in January and spent two weeks in the Hana area, where they contracted the parasite.
Lape said she started feeling symptoms before returning to San Francisco. “Feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body,” she told the TV station.
Manilla said he spent a month in the ICU. He is still undergoing “intensive rehabilitation” at the hospital, KGMB reported.
“I’ve had several operations, two pneumonias, a blood clot. Right now, I’m dealing with a kidney issue, all of which was spurred by the rat lung,” said Manilla, a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.
The couple said they are not sure how they contracted the illness.
At least nine cases have been reported in the state, with six on the island of Maui. The three other cases were reported on the Big Island. The Hawaii Department of Health said they are investigating at least four other possible cases of rat lungworm disease.
According to The Associated Press, the parasite is carried by rats and is transmitted by snails and slugs.
Eliminating the threat has proven to be difficult, with officials saying that smashing, burying or burning the invasive slugs does not deter rats from eating them and restarting the cycle of rat lungworm.
Hawaii residents are urged to wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consumption to reduce the risk of contracting the disease.