Protective practices against zoonotic infections among rural and slum communities from South Central Chile.


Questionnaires administered at 422 households across 12 communities recorded household-level socio-demographic characteristics and participation in nine protective practices. Household inclusion in the analysis of occupational practices required having livestock and a household member with occupational exposure to livestock (n = 127), and inclusion in analysis of garden practices required having a garden and at least one animal (n = 233). The proportion of households participating in each protective practice was compared across community types through chi-square analyses. Mixed effects logistic regression assessed household-level associations between socio-demographic characteristics and participation in each protective practice.

Despite well-recognized recommendations to reduce human exposure to zoonotic pathogens, the use of personal and herd-level protective practices is inconsistent in communities where human interactions with animals are common. This study assessed household-level participation in rodent- (extermination, proper food storage, trash disposal), occupational- (preventive veterinary care, boot-wearing, glove-wearing), and garden-associated (restricting animal access, boot-wearing, glove-wearing) protective practices in farms, villages, and slums in the Los Rios region, Chile, where zoonotic pathogens are endemic.

Most households (95.3 %) reported participation in rodent control, and a positive association between the number of rodent signs in a household and rodent extermination was observed (OR: 1.75, 95 % CI: 1.41, 2.16). Occupational protective practices were reported in 61.8 % of eligible households; household size (OR: 1.63, 95 % CI: 1.17, 5.84) and having children (OR: 0.22, 95 % CI: 0.06, 0.78) were associated with preventive veterinary care. Among eligible households, 73.8 % engaged in protective practices when gardening, and species diversity was positively associated with wearing boots (OR: 1.27, 95 % CI: 1.03, 1.56). Household-level participation in all three protective practices within any exposure category was limited (<10.4 %) and participation in any individual protective practice varied considerably within and across community types.

The levels of participation in protective practices reported in this study are consistent with descriptions in the literature of imperfect use of methods that reduce human exposure to zoonotic pathogens. The wide differences across communities in the proportion of households participating in protective practices against human exposure to zoonotic pathogens, suggests that future research should identify community-level characteristics that influence household participation in such practices.

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