Knowledge, Perceptions, and Practices: Mosquito-Borne Disease Transmission in Southwest Virginia, USA

Article excerpt

Disease emergence and persistence are inherently geographic phenomena, and programs to prevent both are most effective at the local-scale. Specifically, mosquito-borne disease can often be prevented with individual personal precautions; however, effective preventative action typically results from efficient public health programs that teach preventative measures. This study uses principles of disease ecology and the Health Belief Model to examine perceptions of mosquito-borne disease and preventative action in southwest Virginia, USA using a survey. Results suggest low knowledge of mosquito-borne disease among participants, despite recent cases of La Crosse encephalitis and the introduction of West Nile virus to bird populations. Additionally, gender, age, and length of county residence are significant predictors of knowledge, perceived effectiveness of preventative actions, and health seeking behaviors, respectively. These results support the application of the Health Belief Model within a disease ecology framework to study infectious diseases and assist in tailoring local public health programs.

La aparicion y persistencia de los enfermedades son inherentemente fenomenos geograficos, y programas para prevenir ambos factores son rods eficaces a una escala local. Especificamente, las enfermedades transmitidas por mosquitos a menudo pueden prevenirse con precauciones personales e individuales, sin embargo, la accion de prevencion efectiva generalmente resultada de programas eficaces de salud publica que ensenan medidas preventivas. Este estudio utiliza los prin cipios de la ecologia de la enfermedad y el Modelo de Creencias en Salud para examinar las percepciones de las enfermedades transmitidas por mosquitos y acciones preventivas en el suroeste de Virginia, EE.UU. utilizando una encuesta. Los resultados sugieren un bajo conocimiento de las enfermedades transmitidas pot mosquitos entre los participantes, a pesar de los recientes casos de encefalitis de La Crosse y la introduccion del virus del Nilo Occidental en las ayes. Ademas, el genero, la edad, y el tiempo residiendo en el condado son vaticinadores significativos del conocimiento, la percepcion de la eficacia de las medidas pre ventivas, y los comportamientos sanitarios, respectivamente. Estos resultados apoyan la aplicacion del Modelo de Creencias en Salud dentro de un marco de la ecologia de las enfermedades para estudiar las enfermedades infecciosas y ayudar en la adaptacion de programas locales de salud publica.

KEY WORDS: medical geography, mosquito-borne disease, disease ecology, health belief model, Virginia


In an increasingly interconnected world, pathogens and vectors can quickly diffuse around the globe (e.g. McMichael 2000; Tatem et al. 2006), increasing our need to understand the interacting role of these factors at the local scale. Over the past several decades, mosquito-borne pathogens, such as West Nile virus and dengue viruses, have been newly identified in the United States or have experienced a resurgence within the country's borders. Increased trade and travel, in conjunction with climate variability and land use change, have made developed nations more vulnerable to diseases typically associated with tropical developing regions. To address appropriately the threat of mosquito-borne diseases to populations in the U.S., it is important first to understand how diseases and preventative practices are conceptualized within communities at the local- or household-scale, so public health campaigns can be tailored to meet community needs.

The emergence of vector-borne diseases represents a complex interplay among pathogens, hosts, and their environments, and is an inherently geographical concern. Additionally, once a disease is introduced into an area, disease persistence, which occurs when a disease becomes endemic in a location (Hagenaars et al. 2004), is also significantly influenced by geographic characteristics. …