rat lungworm disease

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Laura Travis

Laura Travis

The story of the illness of Laura Travis below is from a deposition submitted by her husband to the Hawaiian Legislature.

"My wife Laura, developed what experts at Hilo Medical Center classified as a 'moderate' case of Rat Lungworm Disease.

Her symptoms began on September 19th, 2015 and she was diagnosed on Octoberst, 2015

Diagnosis of Rat Lungworm Disease followed three visits to the Emergency Room, one visit to urgent care, and three visits to a primary care physician.

Hospitalization lasted about two weeks, post‐hospitalization emergency room visits totaled five, health care specialists referred to numbered seven, and contact with primary care providers was daily to weekly for several months.

The current health care cost (paid by our medical insurance) is over 300,000 dollars.

When we permanently retired to a farm on Papaya Farms Road in lower Puna, I personally designed the catchment and water delivery system to prevent Rat Lungworm Disease (among other dangers).

Laura studied and took precautions to prevent Rat Lungworm Disease. Our precautions included thoroughly washing vegetables and carefully handling fruit.

Our drinking water passed through one, ten, and thirty micron filters, as well as an ultra-violet filter. The system was also treated with chlorine. Because we did take precautions, we do not know how she contacted the parasites.

Although the Department of Health has said they investigate each case to help the survivor determine the cause, we have never been contacted.

It appears that dozens of people have RLW and are not diagnosed. The cases diagnosed are more likely to include severe or moderate cases. Research has not established whether the severity of a RLW case is predominately a result of the number of parasites that enter the body or predominately a function of the individual body's response to the invasion of parasites.

Although the number of parasites that invade may be important, it is possible ‐ and in my mind likely ‐ that the severity is determined Laura's symptoms during the duration of the disease. It included headaches, itchiness, extreme skin sensitivity and burning pain, nerve pain, double vision, loss of balance, impaired short term memory, difficulty in urination. earaches, neck pain, and hair loss.

Also by the response of the body after the parasites invade - and if so, those that develop RLW must take extraordinary precautions to prevent additional contact with the parasites.

Laura's case of RLW has upset and redirected our lives. Personally l have had to resign or suspend support for three community groups and Laura has had to resign from the Puna Medical Center Hospital Board, plus I have had to spend over 20,000 dollars of personal funds for temporary lodging and travel to Honolulu to support medical care and testing.

Subsequently, Laura and l have had to sell our retirement home in Hawaii and move to the Mainland.

Laura still experiences considerable nerve pain as a consequence of the disease. After a year from onset of the disease, she was able to stop use of opioid pain relievers but still requires medication.

In short, this is an awful disease with profound consequences for even those that develop 'moderate' cases.

I seriously doubt the accuracy of the Department of Health data on the number of cases, I believe there is a strong increase in the numbers as a dangerous invasive species (semi-slugs) spreads the disease over an ever-increasing area.

Based on discussions with horse owners, i think some horses may have been killed or ruined by the disease. Laura and l have found only two reliable sources of information on RLW on the Island of Hawaii. One is Dr. Martel at Hilo Medical Center and the other is Dr. Susan Jarvi and her team at the University of Hawaii School of Pharmacy.

The time to act is now - Thank you.
Thomas Lee Travis
Laura G. Travis


A panel forum in Hawaii with Dr. Susan Jarvi, Dr. Jon Martell, Dr. Regina Pressler and Laura Travis who contracted Rat Lungworm disease despite following recommended precautions. She and her husband owned a small farm on Papaya Farms Road in Lower Puna in Hawaii. They were well aware of Rat Lungworm Disease and took every precaution plus some. Since she contracted the disease they have been forced to sell their farm and relocate to the mainland to prevent re-infection with Rat Lungworm Disease and to reduce the cost of medical treatments. In the video she explains her symptoms and her road to recovery.

PBS HAWAI'I: Rat Lungworm - What You Need to Know. What You Need to Do


This information is not meant to be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you have any questions about the parasites described above or think that you may have a parasitic infection, consult a health care provider.

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