The spread of infectious diseases can be prevented by increased public awareness, according to new research.
In a collaborative study, researchers assessed the effectiveness of a simple public health campaign for rabies. They found that not only did the campaign improve knowledge of rabies, but it also meant that people were more likely to get their dogs vaccinated.
The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Surrey, the APHA, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Azerbaijan Republican Veterinary Laboratory and State Veterinary Service, and Washington State University.
“Infectious diseases pose a considerable threat to human health and place an enormous economic burden on health care systems,” explained Dr Dan Horton, lecturer in veterinary virology at the University of Surrey. “This research shows that even a simple public awareness campaign can have a positive effect. The results have potential impact for other diseases and other countries in the region.”
In the study, researchers distributed posters, leaflets and text messages to increase awareness and understanding of rabies in Azerbaijan - a country where the disease is considered endemic but public knowledge is variable.
To assess the effectiveness of the campaign, the researchers worked with 600 targeted households and households from two districts who had not received any information on rabies.
They found that the campaign was both effective in raising awareness of the disease and meant that more people were likely to vaccinate their pets. Interestingly, their study revealed that most people favoured face-to-face information over information obtained through social media.
The study, Assessing the impact of public education on a preventable zoonotic disease: rabies, is published in the journal Epidemiology & Infection.