Rabies is a fatal but preventable zoonotic disease caused by bites or scratches from infected mammals such as dogs. Worldwide, over 59,000 people die annually, 40% of whom are less than 15 years of age. The population of Cambodia is 16 million, with 5 million mostly unvaccinated dogs, a key source for high-risk bites. General population awareness of rabies, along with attitude and practices, are key elements for rabies prevention and control and essential for progress toward elimination. The aims of this study were (i) to assess knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding rabies and (ii) to make recommendations for disease control.
Multistage cluster sampling was conducted to define target households. We randomly selected a respondent 10 years or older from each household for face-to-face interviews using semi-structured questionnaires. The 161 households were selected from five villages out of 161 villages in Thmor Koul Operational District, Battambang Province. The study was conducted in 2018. Descriptive epidemiology and bivariate analysis were then performed.
A total of 161 respondents were interviewed. Most (93%) had encountered suspected rabid dogs. They recognized that rabies was transmissible (78%) and fatal (78%). However, 74% of them thought rabies was still curable once signs and symptoms had appeared. A dog owner was commonly vaccinated (66%), but few dogs had been vaccinated against rabies (13%). Half of the respondents had experienced dog bites. Twenty-four percent of the dogs had then been killed, and the victims reported washing the wound 24% of the time. The first choice of bite treatment was hospitalization (85%). Only 18% of participants had adequate knowledge of rabies. Females were significantly more knowledgeable than males (OR = 2.78, 95% CI: 1.11-6.96). There was no association between knowledge and age, education, economic status, occupation or dog ownership.
The survey indicated a high number of dogs and a low rate of dog vaccination against rabies. Limited knowledge and inappropriate practices toward rabies put humans at high risk of infection and fatality. Community rabies education should be made available along with proper bite management and dog vaccination.