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Open Access Research article

Survey of public knowledge about Echinococcus multilocularis in four European countries: Need for proactive information

Daniel Hegglin1*, Fabio Bontadina23, Sandra Gloor2, Thomas Romig4, Peter Deplazes1 and Peter Kern5

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Parasitology, University of Zurich, Winterthurerstrasse 266a, 8057 Zurich, Switzerland

2 SWILD, Urban Ecology and Wildlife Research, Wuhrstrasse 12, 8003 Zurich, Switzerland

3 Zoological Institute, Division of Conservation Biology, University of Bern, Erlachstrasse 9a, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

4 Department of Parasitology, University of Hohenheim, Emil-Wolff-Strasse 34, 70599 Stuttgart, Germany

5 Department of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Ulm, Robert-Koch-Strasse 8, 89081 Ulm, Germany

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:247  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-247

Published: 21 July 2008

Abstract

Background

Public information about prevention of zoonoses should be based on the perceived problem by the public and should be adapted to regional circumstances. Growing fox populations have led to increasing concern about human alveolar echinococcosis, which is caused by the fox tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis. In order to plan information campaigns, public knowledge about this zoonotic tapeworm was assessed.

Methods

By means of representative telephone interviews (N = 2041), a survey of public knowledge about the risk and the prevention of alveolar echinococcosis was carried out in the Czech Republic, France, Germany and Switzerland in 2004.

Results

For all five questions, significant country-specific differences were found. Fewer people had heard of E. multilocularis in the Czech Republic (14%) and France (18%) compared to Germany (63%) and Switzerland (70%). The same effect has been observed when only high endemic regions were considered (Czech Republic: 20%, France: 17%, Germany: 77%, Switzerland: 61%). In France 17% of people who knew the parasite felt themselves reasonably informed. In the other countries, the majority felt themselves reasonably informed (54–60%). The percentage that perceived E. multilocularis as a high risk ranged from 12% (Switzerland) to 43% (France). In some countries promising measures as deworming dogs (Czech Republic, Switzerland) were not recognized as prevention options.

Conclusion

Our results and the actual epidemiological circumstances of AE call for proactive information programs. This communication should enable the public to achieve realistic risk perception, give clear information on how people can minimize their infection risk, and prevent exaggerated reactions and anxiety.