Knowledge and attitude towards zoonoses among animal health workers and livestock keepers in Arusha and Tanga, Tanzania
Zoonoses are infections naturally transmitted between vertebrate animals and humans. An exploratory questionnaire-based survey of animal health workers(n=36) and livestock keepers(n=43) was carried out between April 2001 and March 2002 in Tanga and Arusha regions, northern Tanzania, to assess local knowledge, attitudes and public awareness for animal zoonoses. A combination of closed and open-ended questions, focus group discussions and ranking techniques were employed to gather information on perceptions concerning the type of zoonotic diseases prevalent in the study area, level of risk, mode of transmission and methods of preventing disease transmission from animals to humans. The results demonstrated that rabies, tuberculosis and anthrax were considered the three most common zoonotic diseases. Sharing living accommodation with animals, consumption of un-treated livestock products (i.e. milk, meat or eggs) and attending to parturition were perceived as routes of transmission. Knowledge about zoonosis was higher in smallholder dairy (92%; 33/36) than traditional livestock keepers (P<0.05). On the contrary, the perceived risk of contracting a zoonosis was significantly higher in traditional livestock (86%; 6/7) than smallholder dairy keepers (p<0.05). Stratification of the risk of zoonosis by farm location revealed that rural farms (85%; 7/8) were considered significantly at a higher risk when compared to peri or urban located farms (P<0.05). Most of the respondents stated cooking of meat or boiling of milk as a way to prevent transmission. However, there was a significant difference in the perception of the risk posed by contact with potentially infected animals /or animal products with animal health workers having a much higher level of perception compared to livestock keepers. These results suggest that in the Tanga and Arusha, Tanzania, patchy awareness and knowledge of zoonoses, combined with food consumption habits and poor animal husbandry are likely to expose respondents to an increased risk of contracting zoonoses. Public health promotion on education and inter-disciplinary one-health collaboration between vets, public health practitioners and policy makers should result in a more efficient and effective joint approach to the diagnosis and control of zoonoses in Tanzania.