Knowledge, Perceptions, and Practices: Mosquito-borne Disease Transmission in Southwest Virginia
Virginia's temperate climate is suitable for several mosquito species capable of transmitting pathogens to humans. In southwest Virginia, La Crosse encephalitis and West Nile fever are most prominent. The objective of this research, which uses the Health Belief Model (HBM) as a theoretical framework, is to assess knowledge of mosquito-borne disease in southwest Virginia, as well as perceptions and practices of mosquito prevention. Given that several cases of La Crosse encephalitis have been reported in Wise and Tazewell counties, they were selected as study sites to conduct surveys.
Five demographic and socioeconomic variables (gender, age, income, education level and length of time one has lived in the county) were used as predictor variables in logistic regression analyses. Gender, age, and length of residence time in the county were found to be statistically significant predictors of specific health-related behaviors. Within the framework of the HBM, barriers to removing standing water around the home and wearing insect repellent were highlighted. Knowledge of mosquito-borne diseases within the area was generally low, with only one individual correctly identifying La Crosse encephalitis as a threat in the region. Higher numbers (6%) were aware of West Nile virus, while 4% reported malaria in the region, demonstrating a disconnect between actual and perceived risk.
These results can enhance existing public health programs by increasing knowledge, addressing public uncertainty about insect repellent safety, and addressing ways to make recommended practices more effective with the knowledge of how different aspects are perceived by varying groups within the community.