Perceptions, attitudes and practices towards scabies in communities on the Bijagós Islands, Guinea-Bissau
Introduction: Scabies is highly endemic among impoverished populations and has been recently included in the WHO’s list of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Community support and behavioural changes are essential for the success of control interventions. This study aimed to explore beliefs, prevention attitudes and health care-seeking behaviours towards scabies in the Bijagós Archipelago of Guinea-Bissau.
Methods: Data were collected through two methods. Community key informants (community members, community health workers, healthcare workers and traditional healers) were interviewed using snowball sampling. A questionnaire covering perceptions, attitudes and practices was administered to community members using random cluster sampling. Thematic analysis of qualitative data was applied to identify themes. Descriptive statistics were used for quantitative data analysis.
Results: There was a satisfactory awareness about scabies, but perceptions about disease causation and transmission were imprecise. Misconceptions about personal hygiene as the primary measure for scabies prevention are recurrent. Some participants recognised the importance of early treatment to interrupt transmission. Treatment of close contacts is not considered important. Costs were the main determining factor for treatment choice between traditional healer and the local health centre. Late presentation and delayed treatment are common and associated with poverty and stigmatisation. Scabies impairs quality of life by affecting social interactions, health, fitness to work and school attendance.
Conclusions: There is a need to improve education, recognition, management and affordable access to treatment. Community education, healthcare workers’ training and skin NTDs integrated control programmes should address the challenges highlighted in this study.