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Published On: Tue, Jul 15th, 2014

Vietnamese doctor says dozens of children are admitted for meningitis linked to a parasite in snails

One physician from a Ho Chi Minh City(HCMC), Vietnam hospital says his hospital admits dozens of children with meningitis caused by eating land snails, according to a Thanh Nien News report Tuesday. The story begins with the story of a  nine-year-old boy called D, who was recently hospitalized for meningitis after eating snails contaminated with the dangerous roundworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Giant African Land Snail  Image/Video Screen Shot

Giant African Land Snail
Image/Video Screen Shot

Dr Truong Huu Khanh of the HCMC Children’s Hospital No. 1 notes that some of his patients reported only playing with the snails without eating them. Another doctor,  Dr Nguyen Hoang Phu of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases, most patients hospitalized after eating land snails ate them for medicinal purposes or as a drinking snack.

“No scientific studies have ascribed land snail with any medicinal properties,” he said.
This story comes at the same time federal authorities at Los Angeles International Airport seized 67 live giant African snails from Lagos, Nigeria meant for human consumption.

What is angiostrongyliasis?

It is an infection caused by the rat lungworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis. This is a parasitic infection in rats where it matures. Mollusks like snails and slugs pick up Angiostrongylus larvae by ingesting them in rat feces.

How do people get this parasite?

Infection is by accidentally or intentionally ingesting raw snails and slugs. Lettuce and other leafy vegetables may also be a source if contaminated by small mollusks. Eating raw or undercooked prawns and crabs that have ingested mollusks may also be a source of infection.

What are the symptoms and disease?

Angiostrongylus cantonensis infection is usually asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic. Symptoms usually appear in 1-3 weeks. The most serious disease is eosinophilic meningitis. The symptoms can include headache, stiff neck, tingling or painful feelings in the skin, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting. The spinal fluid exhibits eosinophilia of over 20%. Deaths are sometimes reported.

Symptoms may last for weeks to months.

How is this infection diagnosed?

The presence of eosinophils in the spinal fluid and a history of eating raw snails suggest angiostrongyliasis. Finding the worms in spinal fluid or at autopsy is confirmation.

What about treatment?

Treatment is usually not necessary. The parasite dies over time since it can’t mature and complete its life cycle. Usually treatment of symptoms; headache medicine, steroids are all that is needed. Treatment with anti-parasitic drugs is generally ineffective against angiostrongyliasis. For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page

How do you prevent getting angiostrongyliasis?

Don’t eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs, cook crabs and prawns to kill the larvae and thoroughly clean lettuce and other produce. Looking for a job in health care? Check here to see what’s available

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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