Knowledge, Beliefs, and Practices in Relation to Malaria Transmission and Vector Control in Guatemala

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  • Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit, Center for Health Studies, Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, Division of Sociomedical Sciences, Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Servicio Nacional de Erradicacion de la Malaria, Division de Malaria, Ministerio de Salud Publica y Asistencia Social, Division of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Guatemala City, Guatemala
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As part of an effort to involve community members in malaria control activities, we studied knowledge, beliefs, and practices of residents of both the Pacific coastal plain and northeastern Guatemala related to malaria transmission and Anopheles albimanus control. Most residents recognized the role of mosquitoes in malaria transmission, but few knew how mosquitoes acquired their infections or understood the risk of having an untreated person in their midst. If this were more widely known, residents might put greater pressure on infected patients to seek timely and appropriate antimalarial treatment. Seventy-three percent of families owned one or more bed nets; however, even though most informants believed that bed nets help protect against malaria, the major reason for using them was to prevent nuisance mosquito bites. It is concluded that efforts should be made to promote bed net use by seeking ways to make them more affordable and by emphasizing their effectiveness as a barrier to nuisance mosquitoes. Although residents have a very positive opinion of the National Malaria Service spray teams, it is proposed that cooperation might be improved if malaria workers would emphasize the fact that house spraying reduces the numbers of nuisance mosquitoes and other pest insects, rather than focusing solely on malaria prevention, which most informants believed was less important. This study emphasizes the importance of understanding community beliefs and practices when planning or evaluating vector control activities.