Plague is an often fatal, primarily flea-borne rodent-associated zoonosis caused by Yersinia pestis. We sought to identify risk factors for plague by comparing villages with and without a history of human plague cases within a model-defined plague focus in the West Nile Region of Uganda. Although rat (Rattus rattus) abundance was similar inside huts within case and control villages, contact rates between rats and humans (as measured by reported rat bites) and host-seeking flea loads were higher in case villages. In addition, compared with persons in control villages, persons in case villages more often reported sleeping on reed or straw mats, storing food in huts where persons sleep, owning dogs and allowing them into huts where persons sleep, storing garbage inside or near huts, and cooking in huts where persons sleep. Compared with persons in case villages, persons in control villages more commonly reported replacing thatch roofing, and growing coffee, tomatoes, onions, and melons in agricultural plots adjacent to their homesteads. Rodent and flea control practices, knowledge of plague, distance to clinics, and most care-seeking practices were similar between persons in case villages and persons in control villages. Our findings reinforce existing plague prevention recommendations and point to potentially advantageous local interventions.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background
The distribution of human plague risk is strongly associated with rainfall in the tropical plague foci of East Africa, but little is known about how the plague bacterium is maintained during periods between outbreaks or whether environmental drivers trigger these outbreaks. We collected small mammals and fleas over a two year period in the West Nile region of Uganda to examine how the ecological community varies seasonally in a region with areas of both high and low risk of human plague cases.Methods
Seasonal changes in the small mammal and flea communities were examined along an elevation gradient to determine whether small mammal and flea populations exhibit differences in their response to seasonal fluctuations in precipitation, temperature, and crop harvests in areas within (above 1300 m) and outside (below 1300 m) of a model-defined plague focus.ResultsThe abundance of two potential enzootic host species (Arvicanthis niloticus and Crocidura spp.) increased during the plague season within the plague focus, but did not show the same increase at lower elevations outside this focus. In contrast, the abundance of the domestic rat population (Rattus rattus) did not show significant seasonal fluctuations regardless of locality. Arvicanthis niloticus abundance was negatively associated with monthly precipitation at a six month lag and positively associated with current monthly temperatures, and Crocidura spp. abundance was positively associated with precipitation at a three month lag and negatively associated with current monthly temperatures. The abundance of A. niloticus and Crocidura spp. were both positively correlated with the harvest of millet and maize.Conclusions
The association between the abundance of several small mammal species and rainfall is consistent with previous models of the timing of human plague cases in relation to precipitation in the West Nile region. The seasonal increase in the abundance of key potential host species within the plague focus, but not outside of this area, suggests that changes in small mammal abundance may create favorable conditions for epizootic transmission of Y. pestis which ultimately may increase risk of human cases in this region.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: With the recent publication of WHO-recommended methods to estimate net survival, comparative analyses from different areas have now become possible. With this in mind, a study was undertaken in Nigeria to compare the performance of a specific long-lasting insecticidal net (LLIN) product in three socio-ecologically different areas. In addition, the objective was to assess the feasibility of a retrospective study design for durability.
In three states, Zamfara in the north, Nasarawa in the centre and Cross River in the south, four local government areas were selected one year after mass distribution of 100-denier polyester LLINs. From a representative sample of 300 households per site that had received campaign nets, an assessment of net survival was made based on rate of loss of nets and the physical condition of surviving nets measured by the proportionate hole index (pHI). Surveys were repeated after two and three years.
Over the three-year period 98% of the targeted sample size of 3,720 households was obtained and 94% of the 5,669 campaign nets found were assessed for damage. With increasing time since distribution, recall of having received campaign nets dropped by 11-22% and only 31-87% of nets actually lost were reported. Using a recall bias adjustment, attrition rates were fairly similar in all three sites. The proportion of surviving nets in serviceable condition differed dramatically, however, resulting in an estimated median net survival of 3.0 years in Nasarawa, 4.5 years in Cross River and 4.7 years in Zamfara. Although repairs on damaged nets increased from around 10% at baseline to 21-38% after three years, the average pHI value for each of the four hole size categories did not differ between repaired and unrepaired nets.
First, the differences observed in net survival are driven by living conditions and household behaviours and not the LLIN material. Second, recall bias in a retrospective durability study can be significant and while adjustments can be made, enough uncertainty remains that prospective studies on durability are preferable wherever possible. Third, repair does not seem to measurably improve net condition and focus should, therefore, be on improving preventive behaviour.
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