The intersection of land use and human behavior as risk factors for zoonotic pathogen exposure in Laikipia County, Kenya

A majority of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs) are zoonotic, mainly caused through spillover events linked to human-animal interactions. We conducted a survey-based human behavioral study in Laikipia County, Kenya, which is characterized by a dynamic human-wildlife-livestock interface. Questionnaires that assessed human-animal interactions, sanitation, and illnesses experienced within the past year were distributed to 327 participants among five communities in Laikipia. This study aimed to 1) describe variation in reported high-risk behaviors by community type and 2) assess the relationship between specific behaviors and self-reported illnesses. Behavioral trends were assessed in R via Fisher’s exact tests. A generalized linear mixed model with Lasso penalization (GLMMLasso) was used to assess correlations between behaviors and participants’ self-reported illness within the past year, with reported behaviors as independent variables and reported priority symptoms as the outcome. Reported behaviors varied significantly among the study communities. Participants from one community (Pastoralist-1) were significantly more likely to report eating a sick animal in the past year (p< 0.001), collecting an animal found dead to sell in the past year (p<0.0001), and not having a designated location for human waste (p<0.0001) when compared to participants from other communities. The GLMMLasso revealed that reports of an ill person in the household in the past year was significantly associated with self-reported illness. Sixty-eight percent of participants reported that bushmeat is available within the communities. Our study demonstrates community-level variation in behaviors that may influence zoonotic pathogen exposure. We further recommend development of targeted studies that explore behavioral variations among land use systems in animal production contexts.
Author Affiliation: Institute of Primate Research
Kamau, J., Ashby, E., Shields, L., Yu, J., Murray, S., Vodzak, M., Kwallah, A. O., Ambala, P., & Zimmerman, D. (2021). The intersection of land use and human behavior as risk factors for zoonotic pathogen exposure in Laikipia County, Kenya. PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 15(2), e0009143.