Public Survey Seeks More Data on Rat Lungworm

July 6, 2019, 10:00 AM HST (Updated July 7, 2019, 5:54 AM)
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The rat lungworm parasite under a microscope. Photo courtesy of Dr. Susan Jarvi.

The Hawai‘i Department of Health (DOH) is urging the public to participate in a second survey on health and food consumption habits to gather data on rat lung worm disease.

DOH delivered the followup survey statewide by mail last week. The survey seeks to gather data to help policy makers better understand what behaviors might put people at risk for contracting foodborne illnesses and issue improved safety guidelines.

The survey has been randomly mailed to selected households across the state with an option to submit responses online. Households that received the first round of surveys in November 2018 will not be included in the second round.

“Our behaviors, activities, eating habits and living environments often change depending on what season we’re in, so it’s important for us to collect a second round of data to fill in more of the picture of potential disease risk factors across the state,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “We encourage those who receive the survey in the mail to promptly complete and return it.”

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Seasonal changes can alter food consumption habits as well as environmental situations around the home. The survey includes questions about what food items residents typically consume, where food is purchased or grown, sources of water for drinking and cooking, how food is prepared, and exposure to rats, slugs and snails in the area surrounding a person’s home.

The data gathered will be used to educate the public on best practices for food safety, guide public health intervention and prevention efforts, and enhance understanding of the foodborne disease risks among Hawai‘i residents and visitors.

The first statewide survey, distributed on Nov. 1, 2018, surpassed the collection goal set by DOH with 4,482 responses. Participation in the surveys is voluntary.

More information about rat lungworm disease and how to prevent it can be found online at the CDC website and DOH website.

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