Background: One major consequence of economic development in South-East Asia has been a rapid expansion of rubber plantations, in which outbreaks of dengue and malaria have occurred. Here we explored the difference in risk of exposure to potential dengue, Japanese encephalitis (JE), and malaria vectors between rubber workers and those engaged in traditional forest activities in northern Laos PDR.
Methodology/principal findings: Adult mosquitoes were collected for nine months in secondary forests, mature and immature rubber plantations, and villages. Human behavior data were collected using rapid participatory rural appraisals and surveys. Exposure risk was assessed by combining vector and human behavior and calculating the basic reproduction number (R0) in different typologies. Compared to those that stayed in the village, the risk of dengue vector exposure was higher for those that visited the secondary forests during the day (odds ratio (OR) 36.0), for those living and working in rubber plantations (OR 16.2) and for those that tapped rubber (OR 3.2). Exposure to JE vectors was also higher in the forest (OR 1.4) and, similar when working (OR 1.0) and living in the plantations (OR 0.8). Exposure to malaria vectors was greater in the forest (OR 1.3), similar when working in the plantations (OR 0.9) and lower when living in the plantations (OR 0.6). R0 for dengue was >2.8 for all habitats surveyed, except villages where R0≤0.06. The main malaria vector in all habitats was Anopheles maculatus s.l. in the rainy season and An. minimus s.l. in the dry season.
Conclusions/significance: The highest risk of exposure to vector mosquitoes occurred when people visit natural forests. However, since rubber workers spend long periods in the rubber plantations, their risk of exposure is increased greatly compared to those who temporarily enter natural forests or remain in the village. This study highlights the necessity of broadening mosquito control to include rubber plantations.