Assessment of Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Associated with Human Intestinal Helminthes in a Traditional Community in Rural Western Kenya
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Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) constitute a broad category of illnesses that continue to plague those living in developing nations. 85% of NTD morbidity results from helminthic infections; collectively, infections due to parasites produce a disease burden that is equivalent to up to one-half of sub-Saharan Africa’s malaria disease burden and more than double that caused by tuberculosis. Specifically, soil-transmitted helminthes represent the most common condition affecting the poorest 500 million people living in sub-Saharan Africa. This cross-sectional study evaluates the accuracy of knowledge, perceived importance, and behaviors related with helminthic infections within a sample of 199 people in a Luo population. Approximately one-half of the interviewees reported having a helminthic infection at the time of this study. A person in this community reported experiencing related symptoms for 9.43 months on average (SD=14.41). A knowledge score found that 59.30% of the population reported at least one correct answer in each category about the symptoms, causes, treatments and prevention methods. No difference was found between gender and age and the number of correct responses. Participants were also asked about knowledge concerning risk factors. Although 15.58% of participants recognized contaminated water as a source of infection, 67.0% continue to use ground water as their primary drinking water source. Participating in geophagia, or eating rocks and dirt, was reported by 16.58% of the population despite the fact that 35.18% viewed this practice as a risk factor. These results indicate that although the population may be aware of the main risk factors associated with helminthic infections, deeply rooted cultural beliefs and lack of access to clean, potable resources present limitations to decreasing the burden of helminthes. Such structural barriers must be addressed in conjunction with providing accurate knowledge and preventive chemotherapy of NTDs for sustainable control and reduction of morbidity.