Hawaii has issued a warning to visitors after a number of people were infected by parasitic worms which burrow into the brain
The parasitic worm typically grows in snails where the larvae develop until mature enough to become infectious themselves.
Often the snails are eaten by rats – giving the parasite the name rat lungworm – but sometimes they can be eaten by humans.
In human hosts, the parasites eat into brain tissue causing a disease known as eosinophilic meningitis which involves severe and permanent damage, and sometimes even death.
Hawaii’s department of health and centres for disease control and prevention issued the alert after three new diagnoses of the potentially fatal parasite.
According to the alert, one of the individuals became infected after “purposely eating a slug on a dare” while visiting the state, while the other two had eaten unwashed salads and fruits.
The number of infections have been growing in recent years. Five infections have been confirmed in 2019 so far, while there were 10 in 2018.
The year before, 17 people were diagnosed with the parasitic infection.
Hawaiian authorities said: “It’s important that we ensure our visitors know the precautions to take to prevent rat lungworm disease, which can have severe long-term effects.
“Getting information to visitors about the disease is just as critical as raising awareness amongst our residents.”