Brain Worms. Sounds gross, right? It is. I first heard about Rat Lungworm disease a few years ago when a friend on the Big Island mentioned the increase being seen locally. WHAT? A parasite which squirms around in my brain, leaves pinholes and pain, then dies? And I get it from eating slugs or their slime? Double gross. But wait, there’s more! The slugs get the parasite from eating rat poop? Seriously? Ugh.
The dark side of paradise.
Why wait two years to post something about this nasty worm? It wasn’t prevalent on my island. Yet.
Welcome to Maui little brain worm!
In an effort to see less people contracting this nasty disease, I give you:
FIVE STEPS TO CATCHING RAT LUNGWORM DISEASE
1. Never wash your produce.
Proper washing of your produce will remove slugs, slime, and the parasite. So far, vinegar, bleach, and grapefruit seed extract have not shown to be effective in killing the parasite. The best way to remove even the smallest slugs is to manually rub each lettuce leaf under running water and inspect for slugs. If you find a slug, don’t handle it with your bare hands. Kill it with fire. Lots of fire.
2. Eat everything raw.
Cooking kills the parasite. If it can be cooked, do it! Because – BRAIN WORMS.
3. Eat only ‘organic’ produce.
I’m sure I’ll be hearing from a few people on this one, but a state official gave this warning. Joe Elm, Department of Health Epidemiologist says,
“Your question of why we’re seeing it now? A lot of people are going for organic produce. And fruits and vegetables. I think the lack of pesticides on these crops are just an invitation for insects. Like… here’s lunch! When you buy these products, we have to be careful.”
It only stands to reason that if you don’t adequately control pest populations of both slugs and rats, you can’t control the spread of Rat Lungworm. I’ve avoided organic produce for years, but now, it will become religious in my home. Don’t even think of bringing it through my door.
4. Protest your local sugar plantation until they close down.
This one might be outside the scope, but hear me out. This past December, sugar left Maui for good. Rats are a pest for sugar. They live in the fields and nibble on the cane. Most sugar plantations had plans in place to get rid of the rats, bait being the most popular. On top of this, when sugar is harvested, only about 10% of the rat population survives. One study says the rats didn’t die during burning, but were typically crushed by machinery or suffocated when their burrows collapsed. With no sugar fields left, with no bait programs in place, with no harvest, those rats reproduce, spread out, poop, the slugs eat said poop, and we eat the slugs.
Edit: Please understand the distance involved between empty sugar fields and Hana (the part of Maui experiencing the outbreak). If those rats could travel 50 miles, I’d be impressed. Point being – every loss of an agricultural sector has an impact. Stop protesting agriculture!
5. Make a haven on your property for rats and slugs.
If you really want to increase your chances of catching Rat Lungworm, make sure you never work to eliminate rats or slugs. There are some great products on the market for both endeavors. If you can’t find the time for application of pesticides, call in a professional. It’s not worth permanent holes in your brain.
Stay safe Maui – avoid Rat Lungworm.
Wash your produce, cook your food, eliminate rats and slugs, and support the farmers who eliminate rats and slugs.