How to Get Rid of Rat Lungworm that Causes Disease & Meningitis in Ocala, FL

The rat lungworm parasite used to have a reputation as a rare infection whose generally mild symptoms resemble those of the flu. But it’s a lot more serious that that and can actually affect the brain and spinal cord. Rat lungworm has been found in five Florida counties. The counties affected are in central Florida and the northern parts of the state. Rat lungworm was found in southern Florida before that and has spread a great deal. There are probably more areas in Florida that are affected that we aren’t aware of so increased awareness of this parasite will help prevent infection and properly identify infected patients.

What is Rat Lungworm?

Rat lungworm is a parasitic nematode(roundworm) that lives in the pulmonary arteries of rats. This is how it gets the name rat lungworm. The adult form is only found in rodents. Infected rodents can pass larvae of the worm in their feces. Snails, slugs and some other animals like shrimp, land crabs and frogs can become infected when they ingest those larvae. These are intermediate hosts and humans can become infected if they eat raw or undercooked infected intermediate hosts and ingest the parasite. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the rat lungworm parasite carries out its lifecycle in rats, snails and slugs and can pose a health risk to human and animals. A survey of 18 counties showed that 23 percent of rats and around 16 percent of rat fecal samples and nearly 2 percent of land snails tested positive for rat lungworm.

Rat Lungworm Prevention

To prevent contact with rat lungworm it’s important to wash all produce, even fruit and especially if you’re eating them raw. Tiny slugs are very hard to see on your produce. Washing needs to be done under running water, not just soaking in water. Teach children not to eat raw snails and to wash hands after handling snails. Avoid eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs. Controlling rats, slugs and snails is important. The most effective way to get rid of snails and slugs is to handpick them and put them in a concentrated salt solution. The parasite cannot mature or reproduce in humans and will eventually die.

Symptoms of & Treatment for Rat Lungworm

The fatality rate of infection in humans is low but the parasite can cause meningitis if it becomes trapped and dies in the brain. If infections are severe it can cause coma or death. Signs of rat lungworm infection include stiff neck, fever, headache, nausea and vomiting and possible paralysis to the face and limbs. Children most commonly experience nausea, vomiting and fever. There aren’t any anti-parasitic drugs that have been found to be effective in treating rat lungworm. There is medication to relieve symptoms and some patients can be treated with steroids. Seek professional help if you suspect you may have been infected with rat lungworm.

Professional Pest Control

The extent of the parasite’s geographic range in Florida is alarming and it won’t slow down anytime soon because of the parasite’s ability to thrive in areas outside its typical range. Average temperatures are on the rise and will allow the parasite to spread into more temperate areas. Take preventive measures to stay healthy and contact Pest911 to help control pest populations on your property!

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