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 15 Jul 2014.
The story begins with a 9-year-old boy who was recently hospitalized for meningitis after eating snails contaminated with the dangerous roundworm,Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
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, [said] most patients hospitalized after eating land snails ate them for medicinal purposes or as a drinking snack. "No scientific studies have ascribed land snails 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.
Angiostrongyliasis 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.
Infection is [caused] 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.
The symptoms and disease A. 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 percent. Deaths are sometimes reported. Symptoms may last for weeks to months.
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.
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.
You prevent getting angiostrongyliasis by not eat raw or undercooked snails or slugs; cook crabs and prawns to kill the larvae; and thoroughly clean lettuce and other produce.