I try not to be prescribtive and just tell people about risks and let them make their own decisions, but in this case, don’t eat slugs (those are slugs going after my basil in Kansas, below).
Health officials in Hawaii are warning residents and visitors to avoid slugs, snails, and rats after the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that three travellers visiting the state were recently infected with rat lungworm disease. One visitor got the disease because the individual ate a slug.
The notice, issued late last month, warns people to inspect produce and wash fruit and vegetables that could have small slugs or snails. These gastropods get the rat lungworm parasite (also known as an Angiostrongylus Infection) by eating rat faeces, and rats eat the infected slugs and snails, forming a continuous vile circle. Sometimes, humans get looped in by eating an uncooked snail. Once the parasite has infected a host, it can move to the brain and cause a type of meningitis, and eventually lead to death. There is not a treatment for rat lungworm disease, according to the CDC.
The recent Hawaii health department notice states that it does inform travellers visiting Hawaii about the disease through signage, but acknowledges it needs to do better. “We recognise that there is more work to be done in educating residents and visitors and making sure they know how to prevent the spread of this disease,” the notice reads.
I always wondered about stupid shows like Fear Factor, where contestants are often forced to eat a variety of suspect foods – maybe the stuff is sterilized beforehand so the people don’t pick up parasites or other unfriendlies.
A 21-year-old Sydney man wasn’t so fortunate and is critically ill after eating a slug as a dare. The man contracted a rare form of meningitis called Angiostrongylus or rat lung worm after eating the slug.
The adult form of the rat lung worm is found only in rodents, which pass the parasite’s larvae in their feces. Snails and slugs then eat the feces, becoming infected.
In some instances, the worm can cause fatal swelling of the brain and spinal chord.
Dr Jeremy McAnulty from New South Wales Health told the Sydney Morning Herald that people should not eat raw slugs or snails and should ensure they wash their hands after touching them, adding,
"It is also important to thoroughly wash and cook any produce that could be contaminated by animals.”