A Couple Contracted a Brain-Infecting Parasite on Their Hawaii Honeymoon

That makes nine cases this spring. Here's what you need to know before your next trip.

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Seasoned travelers know they should be extra careful about drinking the water or consuming the produce in a different country. After all, other nations often have different bacteria on their food that American bodies aren't accustomed to. But it's also possible to get dangerously sick from the food in the good ol' U.S. of A., as two newlyweds have unfortunately learned.

California residents Ben Manilla, 64, and Eliza Lape, 57, got married in January and took their honeymoon on Hawaii's island of Maui shortly after. They spent two weeks having fun in the sun, but when they returned home to San Francisco, both became intensely ill, according to Hawaii News Now.

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"My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body," Lape said.

The couple were diagnosed with rat lungworm disease, a parasite known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis, which attacks the brain and spinal cord. As the name suggests, it originates in rats, and is passed via their feces to slugs or snails that can be found on produce served to humans. Shrimp and crabs can also be contaminated with the parasite, but an infected person can't pass it on to another human. When the parasite does get into humans, however, it goes to the brain and can cause a type of meningitis that can lead to serious brain damage or even death.

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The disease presents with symptoms that are similar to bacterial meningitis, including nausea, vomiting, neck stiffness, and headaches, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"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, who spent a month in the ICU. He's still in the hospital for treatment.

There have been nine reported cases of rat lungworm out of Hawaii so far this spring, after only two in the last decade. Health officials are urging travelers and residents alike to take extra care when preparing their produce — though the very name "rat lungworm" might be enough to scare some of us into washing our lettuce with a microscope.

[h/t Hawaii News Now]

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