Heeding the Message? Determinants of Risk Behaviours for West Nile Virus
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OBJECTIVES: West Nile virus (WNv) emerged in North America in 1999, with the first incursion causing an outbreak of meningoencephalitis in the New York City area which resulted in seven deaths. In the face of WNv, public health professionals recommend various personal protective behaviours (PPBs) that either reduce the risk of mosquito bites (e.g., wearing protective clothing and/or insect repellent when outside at dusk or dawn) or eliminate mosquito breeding sites (e.g., preventing opportunities for standing water to stagnate; cleaning out eavestroughs regularly). This paper evaluates the uptake of the public health message in a WNv hot spot (2002) in order to assess the determinants of the likelihood of undertaking personal protective behaviours to reduce the risk of illness from WNv. METHODS: A telephone survey was administered to a random sample of adults (n=1650) living in the L6L and L6K Forward Sortation Areas of Oakville, Ontario, Canada. RESULTS: While close to 100% of survey respondents were aware of WNv and approximately 80% recalled receiving information from the public health department regarding the virus, levels of reported personal protective behaviours were relatively low. Through a multivariable modeling process, a range of determinants emerged to explain outcome levels. DISCUSSION: The message about public education in the face of emerging health threats is clear; that is, that public education is key. But we cannot end the public health presence there--public health researchers must evaluate the uptake of the message.
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