OBJECTIVE: The zoonotic helminth Taenia solium is endemic in Zambia, causing human (taeniasis and (neuro)cysticercosis) and pig (porcine cysticercosis) diseases with high health, social and economic burdens. We aimed to evaluate the impact of a health educational program intended to lead to powerful and cumulative improvements in knowledge, attitudes and practices that decrease parasite transmission and disease occurrence.
METHODS: Half-day health education workshops were conducted in three primary schools in the highly endemic Eastern Province of Zambia, using the computer-based T. solium educational program 'The Vicious Worm'. Questionnaires were administered before and after the educational component to determine the program's impact on knowledge uptake in primary school students.
RESULTS: In total, 99 students participated: 38 males and 61 females, with a median age of 14 years (range 10-18 years). Baseline general knowledge of T. solium, including awareness of the different human and pig disease states, and disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention, was quite high (average score 62%) and consistent across all three study areas. Participants' knowledge had significantly increased after the educational component, particularly regarding parasite transmission and disease prevention.
CONCLUSION: Preliminary assessment of 'The Vicious Worm' indicates it is an effective tool for the short-term T. solium education of primary school students in Zambia. Follow-up studies are planned to assess the longer term impact of the program on knowledge uptake in the study neighbourhoods. Inclusion of tailored 'The Vicious Worm' educational workshops should be considered in integrated cysticercosis control programs in endemic areas of sub-Saharan Africa.