What is it about?

Chagas disease, caused by the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is a neglected illness that negatively impacts more than 300,000 people in the United States (US). In the southwestern United States, National Park Service employees live in close contact with triatomine bugs, the vectors of T. cruzi. Despite this potential exposure to these bugs, very little is known about NPS employee knowledge of Chagas disease and triatomine bugs, how they feel about Chagas disease, and what they do to prevent potential exposure to triatomine bugs. In order to assess their knowledge, attitudes, and practices, we distributed a survey across several southwestern national parks.

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Why is it important?

Our findings show high self-reported triatomine bug exposure in National Park Service (NPS) housing, despite high use of prevention behaviors. Additionally, NPS employees had low knowledge of Chagas disease (CD). For those with greater knowledge of CD, it was not associated with increased frequency of prevention behavior. We found that increased anxiety of CD was associated with increased personal agency to reduce the risk of CD. These results demonstrate the influence of knowledge and attitudes regarding CD on triatomine prevention behavior within a potential high-risk population in the US, and the importance of utilizing strategies beyond education to influence behaviors.


I hope this article shines a light on a rare, neglected disease in the United States. Writing this article with my co-authors was a great pleasure and allowed me to establish a strong collaboration between Cornell University and the National Park Service.

Antonio Alvarado
Cornell University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Southwestern national park service employee risk, knowledge, and concern for triatomine exposure: A qualitative analysis using a novel knowledge, attitudes, and practices survey, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, September 2022, PLOS, DOI: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0010744.
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