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European borreliosis, known to the general public as ‘
Lyme disease‘ in analogy with the American form, which it differs from in many points, is endemic in the area of Alsace and is a public health problem. The level of knowledge and prevention of the population with regard to the
disease has never been assessed in France.
MATERIAL AND METHODS:
A survey was conducted in all the national health examination centers in Alsace using a self-applied questionnaire. The data collected concerned the socio-demographical characteristics, knowledge on the
disease, history of tick bites, fear the
disease creates, frequency of visits to the forest, prevention habits when visiting the forest and the attitude adopted in the case of a tick bite.
Out of the 600 persons included, 99 (16.5 p.cent) had been bitten by ticks once or more over the past year. The existence of
disease was known to 74 p.cent of the consultants, 63 p.cent claimed they were worried by the
disease and 43 p.cent knew that the first manifestation is redness spreading over the skin. Twenty-seven percent wore trousers and long sleeves when visiting the forest and 19 p.cent inspected their body carefully on their return. The persons least well informed were also those who did little to protect themselves against tick bites. They often were under 30 years old, lived in urban settings and had few diplomas. Those who had frequent spare time in forest and those who had a history of tick bites were the best informed and protected themselves better. The fear of the
disease was associated with better knowledge and more appropriate behaviour.
This study shows that a large percent of the population in Alsace is exposed to tick bites. Tick bite borreliosis is relatively well known, but protection remains insufficient. Better knowledge of the
disease is related to better prevention. Information and teaching campaigns for the general public could specifically target the young people, urban dwellers and those with few diplomas. Specific messages of prevention could be delivered to the most exposed at-risk subjects (i.e. those bitten by ticks or having leisure in forest) at the places of their leisure or medical consultations.