Readers, we don’t want to cause a panic but there is a chance that, in your head at this very moment, a worm is chomping its way through your brain like a presidential candidate through a series of state fair concession stands. Especially if you’ve visited Hawaii or are there right now.
Hawaii’s health department has released fresh warnings about a parasitic worm that can infest human brains after officials confirmed that three more visitors to the state picked up the infection.
It gets worse:
The parasitic worm in these cases is the rat lungworm, aka Angiostrongylus cantonensis. As its common name suggests, the wandering worm primarily takes up residence in rats’ lungs, where female worms lay their eggs.
We’ll stop there because some of you may be eating as you read this. Let’s just say that, en route to a human host, the parasite’s journey involves the rat’s throat, “feces-feasting snails and slugs,” and, eventually, salad.
To learn more about this alarming threat, we turned to the only expert who reliably returns our calls, Dr. Dumb.
Dumb Runner: Doctor, this parasitic worm sounds horrifying. How worried should runners be?
Dr. Dumb: Moderately. More so if you’re visiting Hawaii.
Should runners avoid salad, just to be safe?
Yes. I’d also suggest cutting feces-feasting snails and slugs from your diet.
Is Angiostrongylus cantonensis as cute as the worm in the illustration at the top of this article?
No. The worm in question rarely smiles.
How can our readers tell if they have a parasitic brain worm?
Sometimes the worms die before symptoms present themselves. Other times, according to that article you sent me five minutes ago and which I’m skimming now, the host may experience “headaches, neck stiffness, tingling or pain, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting.”
I experienced most of those symptoms during my last half-marathon.
It’s a challenging distance.
Is the brain worm any relation to the earworm?
Sort of, in the sense that they’re both worms. One big difference is how they enter a human host. The brain worm is ingested through contaminated food, like produce, whereas the earworm is introduced via the ear canal in the form of a catchy song.
Such as “We Built This City,” by Starship. Whatever you do, don’t click that link! Otherwise you’ll be stuck singing “We built this city! We built this city on ROCK AND ROLL! Built this city! We built this city on rock and rohhh-HOOOLE!” all day long. Which may also result in headaches, neck stiffness, tingling or pain, low-grade fever, nausea, and vomiting.
Are bookworms in the same class?
Yes, though they prefer books to humans. Also they often wear tiny spectacles!
Yes—until the bookworm runs out of books to devour. When that happens, he will find the nearest human, enter via whatever orifice is available, and burrow into its victim’s urinary tract, where it camps out in the urethra.
The worst part is, you don’t know you’ve got a bookworm until one day you pee out a tiny pair of spectacles. By then, it’s too late.
Hey, remember that recent story about a woman in Hawaii who went for a short hike and got lost for 17 days in thousands of acres of dense forest and almost died before she was rescued?
I’m starting to think Hawaii is just bad news.
It is. Overpriced, too.
Doctor, as always, thank you for your time.
You’re welcome. Aloha.