The Hawaii Department of Health announced Wednesday that a case of rat lungworm disease was confirmed on Oahu for the first time since 2010, bringing the year-to-date total of the parasitic infection statewide to 16.

According to the department, the person who contracted the disease — an Oahu resident who is now hospitalized — began experiencing symptoms in July and tested positive for the infection late Tuesday.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, Hawaii’s chief health officer for Maui, searches for semi-slugs that carry the rat lungworm parasite. Tad Bartimus/Civil Beat

The department has yet to identify the source of the infection for the victim, whose identity has not been released. But it conducted “onsite property assessments” this morning to survey slug, snail and rat activities in East Oahu and found no evidence of slugs or semi-slugs nearby.

Anna Koethe, a department spokeswoman, declined to identify where the assessments took place. “The investigation is still ongoing, and we hope to release more information as soon as that’s finished,” she said.

The announcement of the Oahu infection came a week after the department kicked off a two-year, $1 million campaign in response to a spike in reported cases of rat lungworm disease, which causes eosinophilic meningitis that sometimes leads to temporary paralysis and even death.

Until this week, the department had confirmed 15 infections on the Big Island and Maui — the highest number recorded in the state since 2007.

“This is a serious disease that can be acquired on any of our islands because slugs and snails throughout the state carry the parasite responsible for the illness,” Keith Kawaoka, deputy director of the department’s environmental health administration, said in a statement.

“This is a grim reminder that we all need to take precautions when working in our gardens and on farms and eliminate slugs, snails and rats from our communities to reduce the risks posed by this parasitic disease.”

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