Maui health officials said six cases of rat lungworm disease have been reported on the island over the past three months, while the island has seen only two cases of the disease in the past decade. Three of the cases have been confirmed, while a seventh case involves a Maui woman who believes she contracted the parasite on the Big Island, Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang said Tuesday. Rat lungworm disease is a condition in which parasitic worm larvae infect people’s brains. It is carried by rats and transmitted by snails and slugs.

Officials say residents can reduce the risk of contracting the potentially life-threatening disease by thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before consumption. Experts are still determining the best way to get rid of the invasive slugs, Pang said. Smashing, burying or burning them does not deter rats from eating them and restarting the cycle of rat lungworm. MORE