What Does The Public Know About Zoonoses?
As factory farming grows, understanding the sources, risks, and best practices around diseases that come from human-animal contact becomes ever more vital. In this study, researchers from the US went to Western Uganda, a hotspot for biodiversity and human-animal contact, to find out if the locals are aware of risks for contracting zoonotic diseases (ones that originate in animals), also known as zoonoses. They tested forest areas close to human settlements, where interactions between people and the wildlife are frequent. Statistics gathered prior to this study showed that non-human primate hunting is the primary source of newly emerging human infections. The researchers were concerned whether frontier populations, those most at risk of exposure and infection, are aware of the existence and danger of zoonoses.
The results of 14 interviews showed that 93% of the locals see domestic animals as a high-risk group in terms of sources of zoonotic diseases. All respondents expressed the belief in human susceptibility to primate zoonoses. Besides theses interviewees, 72 other participants from six study sites were surveyed, the vast majority (83.3%) of whom showed knowledge of the possible disease transmission between animals and people. The researchers’ initial hypothesis that the locals would lack the awareness of zoonoses was therefore shown to be false.
All in all, the six months’ worth of collected data from both the interviews and surveys were complementary. The findings indicate that the locals perceived domestic animals, especially pigs, as the most potent source of zoonoses even though primates were often reported as the riskiest wildlife species. Interestingly, people seem to consider zoonotic diseases that originate in wildlife as much more impactful. The researchers learned of the risk of contamination via crop-raiding primates from the collected data. When asked about means for minimizing the risk of zoonoses, locals expressed strong belief in the potential of vaccines and medicine issued for wildlife and animal population control. However, they did not seem to know how to deal with the problem, without the intervention of the government.
Animal advocates can benefit from the findings of this study by highlighting the awareness of zoonoses in these areas. Furthermore, this knowledge can be used to encourage improved animal welfare through the understanding that the consumption of healthy animals is safer than the consumption of sick ones. These findings may also result in the promotion of lant-based nutrition as the lower risk alternative.