Awareness and attitudes towards anthrax and meat consumption practices among affected communities in Zambia: A mixed methods approach

Type Journal Article - PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Title Awareness and attitudes towards anthrax and meat consumption practices among affected communities in Zambia: A mixed methods approach
Volume 11
Issue 5
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2017
Page numbers e0005580

In Zambia, human anthrax cases often occur following cases of animal anthrax. Human behaviour has been implicated in this transmission. The objective of the study was to explore human behavioural patterns that may contribute to outbreaks of anthrax among affected communities.


A mixed methods study was conducted in four districts of Zambia from November 2015 to February 2016. A cross sectional survey involving 1,127 respondents, six focus group discussions and seven key informant interviews with professional staff were conducted. Descriptive statistics on socio-demographic characteristics, awareness of anthrax, attitudes towards cattle vaccination and risk factors for anthrax and vaccination practices were run using STATA 12 for analysis.


Overall, 88% of respondents heard about anthrax, 85.1% were aware that anthrax is transmitted by eating infected meat and 64.2% knew that animals and humans can be infected with anthrax. However, qualitative data suggested that awareness of anthrax varied across communities. Qualitative findings also indicated that, in Western and Muchinga provinces, human anthrax was transmitted by eating infected beef and hippo (Hippopotamus amphibious) meat, respectively.

Although survey data indicated that 62.2% of respondents vaccinated their animals, qualitative interviews and annual vaccination reports indicated low vaccination rates, which were attributed to inadequate veterinary service provision and logistical challenges. While 82% of respondents indicated that they reported animal deaths to veterinary officers, only 13.5% of respondents buried infected carcasses. Majority (78.1%) of respondents either ate, sold or shared meat from dead animals with other community members. Poverty, lack of access to meat protein and economic reasons were cited as drivers for consuming infected meat.


Health education campaigns must be intensified to reduce the risk of human exposure. Veterinary extension services should be strengthened and cold chain facilities decentralized in order to improve accessibility to anthrax vaccine. It is also important to involve the affected communities and collaborate with other disciplines in order to effectively tackle poverty, improve veterinary services and address inherent meat consumption practices within the communities.

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