Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Eosinophilic meningitis

In 2010 at a friend’s party, strapping 19-year-old rugby player Sam Ballard swallowed a garden slug as a dare.

A group of young friends was sitting around at a table drinking red wine when a slug was produced and one of them said: “Eat it, I dare you”.

Ballard swallowed the slug.

Prior to this, Ballard’s mother Katie had thought her son as a “larrikin” (hooligan) but “invincible,” that nothing could ever happen to him.

She described him as “my rough-and-tumble Sam.”

But the teenager’s life was to take a devastating turn.

Ballard, from Sydney’s north shore, fell ill and was taken to Royal North Shore Hospital where he was diagnosed as having been infected with rat lungworm.

The worm is found in rodents, but snails or slugs can become infected when they eat the faeces of rats with the parasite, known as Angiostrongylus cantonensis.

While most people develop no symptoms, very rarely it causes an infection of the brain.

Ballard contracted eosinophilic meningoencephalitis, which many people recover from and which Sam initially seemed to be rallying.

But he then lapsed into a coma for 420 days and became a quadriplegic.

His mother maintained a positive attitude and in late November 2011, posted her hopes on Facebook that her son would “walk and talk again” and still had the same cheeky attitude.

But as Katie Ballard would later say of her son’s life: “It’s devastated, changed his life forever, changed my life forever. It’s huge. The impact is huge.”

When he was released from hospital in a motorized wheelchair three years after becoming ill, Ballard had his friends rallying around him.

“Team Ballard” raised money for the 24/7 care that the young man would require, but it never could be enough.

Now aged 28, Ballard suffers seizures and cannot control his body temperature, the Daily Telegraph reported.

He has to be tube fed.

Katie Ballard applied to the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) when her son became eligible for a $492,000 package in 2016.

But last September without warning, the NDIS texted her to say a review of his plan had slashed his allocation to around $135,000.

The massive funding cut was without explanation and around-the-clock care means the Ballard family are heavily in debt.

They owe a nursing service $42,000.

The NDIS told the Daily Telegraph it had been “working closely with the Ballard family” to find a resolution and increase Sam’s support package.



  1. Sam Ballard never did anything wrong, if you ask family and friends.

    The teenager from Sydney’s upper north shore was having a laugh and some red wine with mates in the backyard, “trying to act like grown-ups”.

    It was 2010 and it was a night that would change his life, and the lives of everybody around him, forever.

    A slug crawled across the concrete patio and, teens being teens, a dare emerged for Sam to eat it.

    One of his best friends, Jimmy Galvin, later described the moment.

    “We were sitting over here having a bit of a red wine appreciation night, trying to act as grown-ups and a slug came crawling across here,” he said.

    “The conversation came up, you know. ‘Should I eat it?’ And off Sam went. Bang. That’s how it happened.”

    He didn’t become sick immediately, but complained of serious pain in his legs in the days after.

    He was worried it might’ve been a symptom of eating the slug, but his mother told him not to worry: “No one gets sick from that,” she said.

    Sam was worried he might have developed multiple sclerosis, like his father, but that was ruled out.

    Doctors later determined Sam was infected with rat lungworm.

    The worm that infected Sam is usually found in rodents, but snails and slugs can also become infected when they eat rat feces.

    Sam contracted eosinophilic meningo-encephalitis, which many people recover from. Sam didn’t.

    He fell into a coma for 420 days and, when he woke, he had acquired a brain injury.

    Last week, eight years after he fell ill, Sam died. "The Sunday Project’s" Lisa Wilkinson broke the news during a somber but brief segment.


  2. If you're considering eating raw or undercooked snails, slugs or centipedes — you may want to think again.

    Some of these delicacies may carry "rat lungworm," a parasite that can infect critters through rodent feces.

    Here's what you should know about the parasitic roundworm, Angiostrongylus cantonensis, and how it can be avoided.

    Where is the parasite found?

    Rodents have the adult form, with sickened rats passing the parasite's larvae in feces, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says online.

    How are snails, slugs and humans infected?

    Infections occur in snails and slugs when they consume the parasite's larvae, the agency says, adding that humans can end up with rat lungworm if they consume these infected delicacies when they're raw or not cooked fully. Eating frogs, crabs and freshwater shrimp that are raw or undercooked may also be an issue.

    "People also can get infected by accident, by eating raw produce (such as lettuce) that contains a small snail or slug or part of one," the CDC says.

    University of South Florida researchers have warned that coma and death are possible with very serious infections.

    If someone's infected, however, they cannot transmit the parasite to somebody else.

    Where have there been cases in the U.S.?

    Humans have been infected in Hawaii, Louisiana and Texas, University of Florida researchers said in a study published last year. The CDC points out there have rarely been cases in other states.

    What sort of preventative measures can I take?

    Fully wash produce and stay away from eating raw or undercooked snails and slugs or other critters that could be exposed to the parasite.

    What's known about symptoms?

    Nausea, headache, vomiting, a low fever and painful skin sensations are a few of the signs, the CDC says.

    What should I know about treatment?

    It isn't typically required and the parasite eventually will perish, with patients most often being treated for their symptoms, according to the agency.


  3. [Watch what you eat]

    An Australian family is still grieving over the unexpected loss of their father, who fell gravely ill allegedly after eating a gecko on a dare.

    David Dowell was reportedly challenged to eat the small lizard at a Christmas party last year, and was rushed to the hospital two days later in “absolute agony.”

    “It was a dare but I don’t know if it was a serious one, I was paying attention but not really because it was a Christmas party and the kids were invited,” Allira Bricknell, the 34-year-old’s longtime partner, told 7News.com.au.

    Bricknell told the news outlet that she is still searching for answers as to what happened to the father of three, months after his death. She also said that while his friends did dare him to eat it, she didn't actually watch him put the lizard in his mouth.

    “We don’t know 100 percent how he passed but on the actual death certificate, it did say ingestion of a gecko, so I’m assuming it was that,” she said.

    His sister, Hannah Dowell, told The Syndey Morning Herald that a day after he arrived at the hospital, doctors diagnosed him with salmonella. She said that the family initially suspected it was related to chicken, but then Bricknell remembered the dare and shared it with doctors.

    Dowell’s symptoms had rapidly progressed to include vomiting, massive abdominal swelling and fluid in his lungs. His family reportedly told News.com.au that doctors said he “basically rotted from the inside out.”

    Dowell died on Dec. 11, less than two weeks after allegedly accepting the challenge.

    Reptiles can be a cause of human salmonella despite appearing healthy and clean. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not recommend keeping reptiles around children younger than 5, or those with weakened immune systems and older adults. It also advises keeping reptiles and their equipment out of the kitchen or any place where food is prepared, served or consumed.

    “Don’t kiss or snuggle with reptiles and amphibians because this can increase your risk of getting sick,” the CDC said. “Persons who think they might have become ill from contact with reptiles should talk to a health care provider.”

    Dowell’s family wants answers from medical staff relating to his care. They claim that his deteriorating condition wasn’t taken seriously until he landed in the intensive care unit in a coma. Bricknell said it’s been distressing for his children.

    “I didn’t want him remembered like this, I just want to remember the happy times,” she told 7News.com.au. “I am really concerned about our three children, I want to protect them, I don’t want people harassing us because of this.”

    This also isn't the first time an alleged dare ended tragically for an Australian man either. In Nov. 2018, former rugby player Sam Ballard died eight years after eating a slug on a dare. Ballard had contracted rat lungworm disease and fell into a coma for 420 days, and when he woke he had suffered a brain injury that left him partially paralyzed and unable to eat on his own.