A young man who ate a snail eight years ago as a snail lost his fight against the rat lungworm, a kind of parasite. He died last Friday, surrounded by family and friends. ( Michel Van Der Vegt | pixabay )

An Australian man who had eaten a snail eight years ago out of fear of friends died of rat lungworm disease.

Sam Ballard, a promising rugby player, took his last breath on Friday, November 2, at a hospital in Sydney surrounded by family and friends. He was 28 years old.

Eating a slug as a duty

Ballard was only 19 years old when he ate the slug, which would eventually cause his death. In 2010, the young man drank with friends in Sydney when they saw a bullet crawling across the courtyard.

After Ballard had hit the snail, he complained of severe pain in the legs. At first, they suspected that the young man, like his father, was suffering from multiple sclerosis, but the doctors said they discovered he was suffering from rat lungworm disease.

From there, his situation only got worse. He developed eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, a form of meningitis, and fell into a coma for 420 days. When the doctors revived him, he was paralyzed and had to be cared for all the time. Ballard's brain received a serious brain injury.

What is Rat Lungworm Disease?

As the name implies, the rat lungworm is caused by a parasite called Angiostronjilus cantonensis, which often infests rats. The parasite deposits in the lungs of the infected rat, but is later excreted by feces.

If another animal, like a snail, is exposed to the feces of the rat, it also becomes infected with the parasite. People can get the disease if they eat the animal uncooked.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, rat lung disease is common in Southeast Asia and the tropical Pacific island. Cases have also been reported in the United States.

To avoid infection, do not eat raw or under-cooked snails, snails, frogs, shrimp and shrimp. Public health officials also warned about fresh produce. They say, always wash vegetables thoroughly.

Symptoms include headache, a stiff neck, tingling under the skin, fever, nausea, and vomiting. In most cases, the infection does not need to be treated as it disappears on its own.

However, it is best to see a health care provider if someone suspects that he or she is exposed to the disease. A blood test can be performed to check for meningitis.

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