Villagers in Kampong Cham – one of the hardest-hit provinces for dengue fever – have a high understanding of the mosquito-borne disease and how to prevent it, but they are not applying what they know to avoid becoming infected, a study has found.

Researchers surveyed 600 randomly chosen households across 30 villages in Kampong Cham in 2015. The results were published in a study earlier this month in the peer-reviewed PLOS Neglected Tropical Disease journal.

The province was selected based on its high dengue incidence rate, according to the study. Villagers surveyed had high knowledge of dengue transmission, of the Aedes mosquitoes that transmit dengue and of how to prevent breeding and biting.

For example, 95.5 percent of participants were able to identify at least one breeding site, 93.9 percent knew of at least one mosquito breeding prevention method and 94.1 percent knew of at least one mosquito bite prevention measure.

“The majority of participants believed they were at risk and that dengue transmission is preventable,” the researchers say. “However, self-reported vector control practices did not match observed practices recorded in our surveys. No correlation was found between knowledge and observed practices either.”

Researchers concluded that an educational campaign for dengue prevention in this kind of setting, where villagers are already well informed, is “unlikely to have any significant effect on practices unless it is incorporated in a more comprehensive strategy for behavioural change”.

Rithea Leang, director of the National Dengue Control Program, wouldn’t comment on the study itself, but said in general, knowledge is often not translated into practice.

“Knowledge is really high, but the practice is another story,” he said. “People know that beer and wine is not really good [for them], but they still drink it. It’s a similar story.”

Meanwhile, dengue cases are currently on the rise this year due to a naturally occurring uptick in breeding. During the first six weeks of this year, there were some 600 dengue cases reported – double the number of cases during the same period in 2017, Leang said. One death has also been reported this year.

Provinces had been informed to promptly submit data to the national program in order to better predict which provinces could be faced with outbreaks, and to better mitigate the risk, Leang said.

The PLOS study, which also looked into health seeking behaviour of the participants, found that only 32.2 percent of participants would seek treatment if they or a family member experienced a fever. Around 92 percent of participants were able to identify fever as a dengue symptom, but less than 43 percent were able name three or more symptoms.