BACKGROUND: Cystic echinococcosis (CE), a neglected zoonosis caused by the larval stage of the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus, remains a public health issue in many developing countries that practice extensive sheep breeding. Control of CE is difficult and requires a community-based integrated approach. We assessed the communities' knowledge and perception of CE, its animal hosts, and its control in a CE endemic area of the High Atlas Mountains, Morocco.
METHODS: We conducted twenty focus group discussions (FGDs) stratified by gender with villagers, butchers and students in ten Berber villages that were purposefully selected for their CE prevalence.
RESULTS: This community considers CE to be a severe and relatively common disease in humans and animals but has a poor understanding of the parasite's life cycle. Risk behaviour and disabling factors for disease control are mainly related to cultural practices in sheep breeding and home slaughtering, dog keeping, and offal disposal at home, as well as in slaughterhouses. Participants in our focus group discussions were supportive of control measures as management of canine populations, waste disposal, and monitoring of slaughterhouses.
CONCLUSIONS: The uncontrolled stray dog population and dogs having access to offal (both at village dumps and slaughterhouses) suggest that authorities should be more closely involved in CE control. This study also highlights the need for improved knowledge about the transmission cycle of the parasite among communities and health professionals. Inter-sectoral collaboration between health staff, veterinarians, and social scientists appears to be crucial for sustainable control of this parasitic zoonosis.