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Keywords:

  • water-contact behaviour;
  • schistosomiasis;
  • household effects;
  • Brazil

Summary

Much research points to the importance of the household in the study of water-borne diseases such as schistosomiasis. An important aspect of the household is the clustering of domestic activities associated with water collection, storage and usage. Such activities can result in the sharing of water-contact sites and water-contact behaviour, which expose household members to similar risks of infection. In previous studies, we determined that shared residence accounted for 28% of the variance in Schistosoma faecal egg excretion rates. We now quantify the effect of shared residence on the variation in water-related health behaviours. We found that shared residence accounted for 30% of the variation in total water contacts per week. It also accounted for a large proportion of the variation in individual water-contact behaviour: e.g. agricultural contacts (63%), washing limbs (56%) or bathing (41%). These results implicate the household as an important composite measure of the complex relationships between socioeconomic, environmental and behavioural factors that influence water-contact behaviour and, therefore, the transmission of schistosomiasis. Our results also support a focus on the household in the implementation of schistosomiasis prevention and control efforts.