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Determinants of tick-avoidance behaviors in an endemic area for Lyme disease.

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Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Tick bite control is an important initiative to prevent
Lyme disease and other tickborne infections. While several studies have demonstrated that knowledge and awareness of
Lyme disease in endemic areas are good, none has evaluated the relative importance of knowledge with other attitudinal and health belief variables to determine motivators of preventive behavior.

METHODS:

We conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 304 commuter ferry passengers departing Martha’s Vineyard Island, Massachusetts, in August 1992, to ascertain the prevalence of tick-avoidance behaviors among individuals from an endemic area of
Lyme disease and to identify the knowledge, behavioral, and demographic variables that best determine precautionary behavior.

RESULTS:

Overall, survey respondents (n = 304) had very good knowledge of
Lyme disease (73% items correct on a knowledge test), but only 59% of respondents reported limiting time in tick areas, 58% usually wore protective clothing, 40% wore tick repellent, and 66% usually performed tick checks. By stepwise linear regression analysis, determinants of tick-avoidance behaviors included perceiving the behavior’s benefits as outweighing its inconvenience (P < .0001), having confidence in recognizing
Lyme disease symptoms (P < .0004), believing that
Lyme disease is a serious illness (P < .0009), and believing that the avoidance behavior is effective in reducing the risk of
Lyme disease (P < .01). Younger respondents (P < .05) performed fewer avoidance behaviors. Visitors (P < .0001) performed fewer tick checks than residents. Having confidence that one could find a tick on oneself with a tick check also predicted performance (P < .008). Increased general knowledge about
Lyme disease did not predict any protective behaviors.

CONCLUSIONS:

Precautionary behaviors were underperformed in an at-risk population despite good knowledge of
Lyme disease symptoms and transmission. Instead, performance was related to confidence in finding a tick on oneself and a perception that a precaution’s benefit outweighed its inconvenience and would adequately reduce risk for
Lyme disease. These data have implications for
Lyme disease prevention programs, which typically focus on enhancing general knowledge as a means toward
disease reduction.

Am J Prev Med. 1997 Jul-Aug;13(4):265-70. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov’t; Research Support, U.S. Gov’t, P.H.S.

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