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On a trip that was supposed to be a dream wedding and honeymoon a couple gets a horrific illness that has ruined their lives.

In January Ben Manilla and Eliza Lape traveled to Maui to get married and enjoy their honeymoon in paradise. What they went home with was completely unexpected. Their unusual symptoms began before they were even able to return to their home in San Francisco.

From IJR:

“My symptoms started growing to feeling like somebody was taking a hot knife and just stabbing me in different parts of my body.”

Once they returned to California, Manilla began experiencing “incredible pain” and his fine motor skills diminished. When he found that he couldn’t hold a marker and write on the whiteboard at work, he sought professional help.

Doctors diagnosed Lape and Manilla with rat lungworm disease, an infection caused by a parasitic worm found in rats. The worms’ larvae are passed on in the rats’ feces, which can then be ingested by snails and slugs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, humans can contract rat lungworm disease by eating raw produce that includes part of an infected slug or by consuming a contaminated animal (notably freshwater crabs and shrimp, but not fish).

After ingesting this parasite, it travels up into your brain where worms begin to develop. They grow bigger and bigger until they start moving around, looking for a way out. When they die inside the brain there is a serious reaction and some victims never fully recover.

The disease brought on months of pain for the couple and Manilla ultimately had to leave his job in order to receive intensive treatment. There is no cure for lungworm disease and it has caused a myriad of other health issues for him.

Because of all the different foods the couple ate while they were out there, it has become impossible to track down where the disease came from. They ate from a garden, they had fruits and vegetables delivered to them, they ate from food stands…it could have come from anywhere.

The garden slugs that can carry this disease have babies that are so tiny they can’t really be seen. Even the slime from these slugs can pass the disease onto someone when ingested.

It is really important to thoroughly clean any produce you eat, also, cooking food for 5 minutes or freezing it for 24 hours kills off the parasite.

Some researchers want rat lungworm disease to be declared an epidemic. This disease can affect people all over the world because of produce that is shipped out from Hawaii.

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