People, Patches, and Parasites: The Case of Trypanosomiasis in Zimbabwe

Published on 1 September 2017

Understanding the socio-ecology of disease requires careful attention to the role of patches within disease landscapes. Such patches, and the interfaces between different socio-epidemiological systems, we argue, have important implications for disease control.We conducted an interdisciplinary study over three years to investigate the spatial dynamics of human and animal trypanosomiasis in the Zambezi valley, Zimbabwe. We used a habitat niche model to identify changes in suitable habitat for tsetse fly vectors over time, and this is related to local villagers’ understandings of where flies are found. Fly trapping and blood DNA analysis of livestock highlighted the patchy distribution of both flies and trypanosome parasites. Through livelihoods analysis we explored who makes use of what areas of the landscape and when, identifying the social groups most at risk. We conclude with a discussion of the practical implications, including the need for an integrated ‘One Health’ approach involving targeted approaches to both vector control and surveillance.

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