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Knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding schistosomiasis infection and prevention: A mixed-methods study among endemic communities of western Uganda

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

INTRODUCTION: In Uganda, schistosomiasis (re)infections have continued to remain high despite the implementation of mass drug administration and sensitization campaigns aimed at controlling the disease. This could imply that there are some barriers to the implemented preventive measures. We conducted a mixed-methods study in Kagadi and Ntoroko districts around Lake Albert to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding schistosomiasis and to explore and understand perspectives regarding the disease. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Semi-structured survey questionnaires were administered to 337 household adults selected through systematic random sampling. We also interviewed 12 participants and held 28 focus-group discussion sessions with 251 individuals respectively. Quantitative data was analysed using frequencies, percentages, and chi-square tests for associations, while themes and sub-themes were used to analyse qualitative data respectively. FINDINGS: A total of 98.5%, 81.3%, and 78.5% had heard about schistosomiasis, and knew the main transmission modes and symptoms, respectively. The majority (75.8%) said avoiding contact with water was a preventative way, while 67.5% said observing signs and symptoms was a form of diagnosis. Furthermore, 98.4% and 73.4% said it was important to defecate in latrines and to avoid contact with contaminated water respectively. However, it is difficult to avoid contact with lake water because it is the only source of livelihood, especially for fisher communities. Open defecation is commonly practiced along the lake due to insufficient space and difficulties in the construction of latrines. Myths and misconceptions reported include; lake water is safe, gassing in water causes transmission, fetching water early in the morning and from deep water is safe, and feces in the lake water act as a bait for catching fish. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: Despite adequate knowledge of schistosomiasis and a positive attitude towards its prevention, existing myths and misconceptions, coupled with persistent risky water, sanitation, and hygiene practices still pose a challenge. A more robust community-based awareness intervention using bottom-up participatory approaches, accompanied by the provision of clean and safe water sources and increasing latrine coverage, could provide lasting solutions to these barriers.
Journal: PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
ISSN: 1935-2735
Issue: 2
Volume: 16
Publication year:2022