Background: Lassa fever (LF) is an epidemic-prone zoonotic disease prevalent in Nigeria and Ebonyi State is a high burden area in Nigeria. Low risk perceptions have been reported to prevent appropriate preventive behaviours. We investigated the knowledge and risk perception of residents towards LF and determined the factors influencing their risk perception in communities that have reported confirmed cases of LF.
Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study in the affected wards in Abakaliki Local Government Area (LGA). We interviewed 356 adult respondents recruited across 6 settlements in 3 of the affected wards through multistage sampling technique. Information on participants' knowledge of LF, their risk perception using the health belief model as well as factors influencing risk perception were obtained. We estimated the proportions of respondents with good knowledge and high risk perceptions. We also explored the relationship between risk perception, knowledge and sociodemographic characteristics using Chi Square and logistic regression at 5% level of significance.
Results: The mean age of the participants was 33.3 ± 12.2 years, 208 (63.2%) were females, 230 (69.9%) were married and 104 (31.6%) had attained tertiary education. Though 99.1% were aware of LF infection, 50.3% among them had poor knowledge of LF symptoms and risk factors, 92.9% had high risk perception of severity, 72.4% had a high feeling of susceptibility towards LF infection, 82.5% had a high perceived self-efficacy towards LF infection, 63.5% had a low perceived benefit of LF preventive practices and 31.8% had high perceived barrier towards LF preventive practices. Good knowledge of LF was the only significant factor influencing risk perception; perceived severity: (COR: 3.0, 95%CI: 1.2-7.8), perceived susceptibility (AOR: 2.0, 95%CI: 1.25-3.3) and perceived benefit (COR: 2.1, 95%CI: 1.3-3.3).
Conclusions: Good knowledge of LF influences risk perception towards LF which has great import on LF preventive practices. A gap exists in the content and acceptance of LF risk communication information in the LGA. There is a need to review the risk communication messages in the state towards LF in the community with special focus on the males and younger population.
Keywords: Communities; Health belief model; Knowledge; Lassa fever; Outbreak response; Perception; Risk communication.