Published: Feb 06, 2014 4:20 PM EST

HONOLULU (AP) - A student at a high school on Hawaii's Big Island found a snail in his cafeteria-served lunch this week, school officials said.

The Kealakehe High School principal said he is taking the matter very seriously, KHON-TV reported (http://is.gd/5Qo2V7). Principal Wilfred Murakami said the lettuce brought in by a local vendor in recent days had more snails than usual.

The snail was found Wednesday on a student's salad that was served at the Kailua-Kona school cafeteria. Murakami said the salad ingredients were washed properly by cafeteria staff.

"We drain it, strain it in a colander and go ahead and turn it into a salad. And in this particular case, one of the snails was lodged in one of the leaves," the principal said.

Snails and slugs can contain parasites that can attack the nervous system, causing rat lungworm disease. Hawaii state epidemiologist Sarah Park said the illness can be debilitating, taking months or years of rehabilitation to recover.

School officials said they've notified the vendor, a Kailua-Kona farm.

Officials said cafeteria staff also will be more diligent in inspecting and cleaning the produce. They will carefully examine the lettuce and other food "to make sure that none of these critters or insects get into it," Murakami said.

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Information from: KHON-TV, http://khon.com

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