Impact of a Dengue Outbreak Experience in the Preventive Perceptions of the Community from a Temperate Region: Madeira Island, Portugal

Teresa Nazareth, Carla Alexandra Sousa, Graça Porto, Luzia Gonçalves, Gonçalo Seixas, Luís Antunes, Ana Clara Silva, Rosa Teodósio

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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The ability to effectively modify behaviours is increasingly relevant to attain and maintain a good health status. Current behaviour-change models and theories present two main approaches for (healthier) decision-making: one analytical/logical, and one experiential/emotional/intuitive. Therefore, to achieve an integral and dynamic understanding of the public perceptions both approaches should be considered: community surveys should measure cognitive understanding of health-risk contexts, and also explore how past experiences affect this understanding. In 2011, community perceptions regarding domestic source reduction were assessed in Madeira Island͘. After Madeira’s first dengue outbreak (2012) a unique opportunity to compare perceptions before and after the outbreak-experience occurred. This was the aim of this study, which constituted the first report on the effect of an outbreak experience on community perceptions regarding a specific vector-borne disease. A cross-sectional survey was performed within female residents at the most aegypti-infested areas. Perceptions regarding domestic source reduction were assessed according to the Essential Perception (EP)-analysis tool. A matching process paired individuals from studies performed before and after the outbreak, ensuring homogeneity in six determinant variables. After the outbreak, there were more female residents who assimilated the concepts considered to be essential to understand the proposed behaviour. Nevertheless, no significant difference was observed in the number of female residents who achieved the defined ‘minimal understanding’’. Moreover, most of the population (95.5%) still believed at least in one of the identified myths. After the outbreak some myths disappeared and others appeared. The present study quantified and explored how the experience of an outbreak influenced the perception regarding a dengue-preventive behaviour. The outbreak experience surprisingly led to the appearance of new myths within the population, apart from the expected increase of relevant concepts’ assimilation. Monitoring public perceptions is therefore crucial to make preventing dengue campaigns updated and worthy.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0003395
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2015


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