Since leaving Hawaii in January, newlyweds Ben Manilla, 64, and his new wife, 57-year-old Eliza Lape, have spent most of their married life in hospital, after contracting rat lungworm disease on their honeymoon. As Maui investigates a growing number of cases of the disease, this couple is suffering.

Two week honeymoon on Maui, Hawaii leads to serious illness

According to Lape, after having spent two weeks on honeymoon in the Hana area of Maui, she started feeling the symptoms of rat lungworm before they even got home. She recalls that it felt like someone had taken a hot knife and stabbed her in different parts of her body.

Manilla had to spend a month in the ICU and is reportedly still in hospital, going through intensive rehabilitation.

A teacher at UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, Manilla hasn’t been at work too much lately. He has reportedly gone through several operations, has had pneumonia twice and has suffered a blood clot. He said that at the moment he is having kidney problems, and that all these symptoms were a direct result of the rat lungworm.

As reported by Pix 11, rat lungworm is spread by a parasite and affects the brain and spinal cord.

It gets its name as the parasite reportedly infects rats, which then pass the worm larvae in their feces. This leads to snails and slugs becoming infected by eating the larvae. Next in the food chain are humans, who may eat raw produce, for instance salads, containing a small snail or slug, or even just a portion of one. However, reportedly consuming contaminated land crabs or freshwater shrimp can also cause a rat lungworm infection.

Hawaii Department of Health to research the disease

Hawaii News Now quotes the Hawaii Department of Health as saying there have now been six confirmed cases relating to Maui in 2017 of the rat lungworm disease. Reportedly four of the infected patients are Maui residents, while the other two are the Honeymoon couple in question.

There have also been three reported cases on the Big Island. Officials say there were 11 confirmed cases of rat lungworm all on Hawaii island in 2016. However, Hawaii News Now reports that 22 cases were counted statewide in 2016, based on information from hospital visits. The state is now reportedly planning to research the source of information and methodology used to collect it.

Experts are concerned that rat lungworm is going under-reported

Susan Jarvi, who works as a professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Hawaii, says experts are concerned that incidences of rat lungworm disease are being under-reported. She said reports only include the number of patients discharged from hospitals, so this leaves out other patients who go to a clinic rather than a hospital.

As for the honeymoon couple, Manilla and Lape are unsure how they contracted the rat lungworm disease, but they do want to warn others to take precautions to protect themselves. Lape said if he knew about the problem while visiting Maui, they would have taken a different attitude, as the disease really disrupts and destroys peoples’ lives. Without care being taken, that tropical Hawaii vacation could lead to serious suffering.