by Gia Loc
|A 10-year-old boy from the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau is being treated for meningitis caused by eating snails infected with the roundworm Angiostrongylus cantonensis. — VNS Photo Gia Loc
HCM CITY (VNS) — A 10-year-old boy from U Minh District in the Mekong Delta province of Ca Mau has been hospitalised after contracting meningitis from eating snails infected with the roundworm Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
Last Saturday, the boy was brought to HCM City Paediatrics Hospital No.1's neurology and infectious disease ward, suffering from a high fever, severe headache, nausea and myalgia.
Laboratory tests, including cerebrospinal fluid analysis, blood tests and an MRI showed that he had meningitis.
Pham Thi Oanh, the boy's mother, said that he had eaten baked snail with two other children. The two children vomited immediately but recovered within two days.
"My son's health had been good. But a week ago he said that he felt pain in his neck and he vomited. His health became worse although he had been treated at the district's hospital," she said.
As of yesterday, he still was being treating at the ward, where he is recovering.
"We are not aware of the danger of eating snails. Residents here often catch snails and eat them because the rumour is that snails help treat aches and pains," she said.
Truong Huu Khanh, head of the hospital's neurology and infectious disease ward, said that three or four children this year had been hospitalised at the ward for treatment of meningitis due to Angiostrongylus cantonensis roundworms.
Last year, the ward admitted as many as 30 children, most of whom were from rural areas.
In 2009, the city's Hospital for Tropical Disease treated two young people from Go Vap District who had become ill after eating baked snails.
One of them died, and the other is in a "vegetable state", according to hospital authorities.
Wild snails move on land and are often infected with parasitic worms, including Angiostrongylus cantonensis.
"It is dangerous if they are not cooked well," Khanh said.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Angiostrongylus is a parasitic roundworm that can cause severe gastrointestinal or central nervous system disease in humans, depending on the species.
"Angiostrongylus cantonensis roundworms cause meningitis and are prevalent in Southeast Asia and tropical Pacific islands. The recognised distribution of the parasite has been increasing over time and infections have been identified in other areas, including Africa, the Caribbean and the US", the CDC's website said.
In summer, children in rural areas often imitate adults and catch snails to eat, Khanh said.
Communication about this issue should be improved in rural areas because residents' awareness about it remains low, he added.
The Ministry of Health's Preventive Health Department said that people should eat well-cooked food and clean vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
If they have a headache, nausea and high fever, they should visit a health facility as soon as possible. — VNS