California Newlyweds Contract Brain-Infecting Parasite in Hawaii | NBC Southern California
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California Newlyweds Contract Brain-Infecting Parasite in Hawaii

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    Newlyweds Ben Manilla, a journalism professor at UC Berkeley, and Eliza Lape contracted a brain-infecting parasite called rat lungworm disease, according to Hawaii News Now.

    (Published Wednesday, April 12, 2017)

    A Bay Area couple's idyllic honeymoon took a horrific turn when they contracted a brain-infecting parasite in Hawaii. 

    Newlyweds Ben Manilla, a journalism professor at UC Berkeley, and Eliza Lape were both diagnosed with rat lungworm disease, according to Hawaii News Now.

    Manilla, 64, and Lape, 57, traveled to Maui for their wedding in January. After the ceremony, they spent a fortnight in the area of Hana, Hawaii News Now reported.

    Lape began presenting symptoms even before the duo’s return to San Francisco.

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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," she told Hawaii News Now.

    Rat lungworm disease is caused by a parasite that impacts rats that then excrete worm larvae. Slugs and snails consume the larvae, which can be passed on to humans via raw produce, freshwater shrimp and land crabs, according to Hawaii News Now. The parasitic worms trigger a rare meningitis that affects the brain and spinal cord.

    Lape has recovered, but Manilla has spent a month in the ICU and needs to undergo rehabilitation, the TV station said.

    "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 ratlung," Manilla said to Hawaii News Now.

    The couple is speaking about the experience to help other people take appropriate precautions.

    "Had we known we were walking into this kind of environment, we would have had a completely different attitude," Lape told Hawaii News Now. "It really does disrupt and destroy people's lives."

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    Officials have noted an upswing in rat lungworm disease – at least nine cases recently – on the Big Island and on Maui, Hawaii News Now reported. But health experts believe that number may not include people who went to private clinics, not hospitals. The Department of Health is investigating.