Date of Award

5-2014

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department/Major

Basic Biomedical Science

First Advisor

Dr. Evelyn Schlenker

Second Advisor

Dr. Victor Huber

Third Advisor

Dr. Hugh Britten

Keywords

West Nile Virus; Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices; Public Health; Prevention; Risk Perception; South Dakota

Subject Categories

Biology | Community Health and Preventive Medicine

Abstract

West Nile virus (WNV) is an endemic health threat in North America associated with significant human morbidity and mortality. Since no drugs or vaccines against it have been approved for human use, the only effective way to combat WNV is through limiting contact with the mosquitoes that transmit it. As such, ensuring the public is educated about the virus and risk factors associated with exposure is paramount to the reduction of WNV-associated disease. Studies investigating the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of the public with regard to WNV and the factors associated with taking measures to prevent exposure have demonstrated links between perception of personal risk, perception of possible consequences of infection, and likelihood of taking preventative measures. No such study, however, had been conducted on the knowledge, attitudes, and practices of university students in South Dakota or the influence of the historical number of WNV cases on perceived risk. Our investigation recapitulated the association between perception of risk and protective behavior reported by previous studies and found that knowledge level, perception of threat posed by infection, and relation to an individual who had been diagnosed with the disease are all associated with protective behavior. We found no association between areas of academic study or historical risk and protective behavior. Our findings may be useful to encourage WNV prevention behaviors among university students in South Dakota.

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