Behavioral and structural barriers to accessing human post-exposure prophylaxis and other preventive practices in Arequipa, Peru, during a canine rabies epidemic

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2020 Jul 21;14(7):e0008478. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0008478. eCollection 2020 Jul.


A canine rabies epidemic started in early 2015 in Arequipa, Peru and the rabies virus continues to circulate in the dog population. Some city residents who suffer dog bites do not seek care or do not complete indicated post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) regimens, increasing the risk of human rabies. The objectives of our study are to qualitatively assess knowledge about rabies, and preventive practices, such as rabies vaccine administration, following a dog bite. We conduct eight focus group discussions in peri-urban and urban communities with 70 total participants. In our results, we observe low awareness of rabies severity and fatality, and different practices following a dog bite, depending on the community type: for example, whereas participants in the urban communities report cleaning the wound with hydrogen peroxide rather than soap and water, participants in peri-urban areas cover the wound with herbs and hair from the dog that bit them. Misconceptions about rabies vaccines and mistreatment at health centers also commonly prevent initiating or completing PEP. We identify important behavioral and structural barriers and knowledge gaps that limit evidence-based preventive strategies against rabies and may threaten successful prevention of dog-mediated human rabies in this setting.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings / complications
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / prevention & control
  • Dog Diseases / virology*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Peru / epidemiology
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis*
  • Rabies / epidemiology
  • Rabies / prevention & control
  • Rabies / veterinary*
  • Rabies Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Rabies Vaccines / immunology*
  • Urban Population
  • Wounds and Injuries / therapy


  • Rabies Vaccines