By Stephanie Chao, the Eye on Taiwan staff writer
Six migrant workers in Tainan, southern Taiwan have been treated for parasite symptoms after consuming apple snails, which they thought were a delicious treat, according to the Center of Disease Control (CDC) under the Health Ministry.
Nine workers from Thailand were reported to have gathered a number of large apple snails in the fields near their workplace last month, CDC said in a press release on Friday.
Some of them tasted the snails after toasting them with cigarette lighters and finding the freshwater mollusks yummy, they brought all the apple snails back to their dormitory for a special treat, doctors at Chi Mei Medical Center who reported the case to CDC, told local news media.
Six of the workers, who ate the freshwater mollusks raw by pairing them with Thai sauce, were later found to have symptoms ranging from nausea, headaches, sore muscles, diarrhea, and stomach ache on Feb 26, doctors said, adding they originally thought they had contracted the flu.
However, the migrant workers’ symptoms did not lessen after medical treatment, and on March 4, they finally sought medical attention at the Liouying branch, where they were diagnosed to have contracted parasites, doctors said.
According to CDC, the six workers, who are still at the hospital, are slowly recovering after proper treatments.
Chiu Yu-hsin, a doctor at the Liouying branch’s Infectious Disease Department, said in serious cases, eating uncooked snails could lead to symptoms such as seizures, epilepsy, and even going into a coma or death.
Normal medical treatment of such cases usually require three to 14 days to lessen the symptoms, Chiu said.
There were previous reports of migrant workers who consumed apple snails as well: One example included those on the run had resorted to eating apple snails to assuage their hunger, while other Thai migrant workers ate the mollusks reportedly because the snails were considered a special treat at their hometowns.
Apple snails can carry the infectious rat lungworm, which was the same parasite that paralyzed a 19-year-old Australian rugby player due to a brain infection, who ate a garden slug on a dare, according to recent media reports.
Rat lungworm — a parasitic worm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) lives in rodents and can be passed onto snails and slugs. Those gastropods can then transmit the worm to humans, according to the CDC.