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JOURNAL ARTICLE

A rabies lesson improves rabies knowledge amongst primary school children in Zomba, Malawi

Jordana L Burdon Bailey, Luke Gamble, Andrew D Gibson, Barend M deC Bronsvoort, Ian G Handel, Richard J Mellanby, Stella Mazeri
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 2018, 12 (3): e0006293
29522517
Rabies is an important neglected disease, which kills around 59,000 people a year. Over a third of these deaths are in children less than 15 years of age. Almost all human rabies deaths in Africa and Asia are due to bites from infected dogs. Despite the high efficacy of current rabies vaccines, awareness about rabies preventive healthcare is often low in endemic areas. It is therefore common for educational initiatives to be conducted in conjunction with other rabies control activities such as mass dog vaccination, however there are few examples where the efficacy of education activities has been assessed. Here, primary school children in Zomba, Malawi, were given a lesson on rabies biology and preventive healthcare. Subsequently, a mass dog vaccination programme was delivered in the same region. Knowledge and attitudes towards rabies were assessed by a questionnaire before the lesson, immediately after the lesson and 9 weeks later to assess the impact the lesson had on school children's knowledge and attitudes. This assessment was also undertaken in children who were exposed to the mass dog vaccination programme but did not receive the lesson. Knowledge of rabies and how to be safe around dogs increased following the lesson (both p<0.001), and knowledge remained higher than baseline 9 weeks after the lesson (both p<0.001). Knowledge of rabies and how to be safe around dogs was greater amongst school children who had received the lesson compared to school children who had not received the lesson, but had been exposed to a rabies vaccination campaign in their community (both p<0.001) indicating that the lesson itself was critical in improving knowledge. In summary, we have shown that a short, focused classroom-based lesson on rabies can improve short and medium-term rabies knowledge and attitudes of Malawian schoolchildren.

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