Honors Program


Date of this Version

Spring 5-19-2023

Document Type



Nayituriki, R.L. 2023. Zoonotic Disease Awareness and Preventive Health Behaviors among Rural Communities in Western Rwanda. Undergraduate Honors Thesis. University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


Copyright Roberto L. Nayituriki 2023


Zoonotic diseases alter people’s livelihoods and impact economies around the world. The economic, social, and health burdens imposed by zoonotic diseases are acute in the least-developed and developing countries. To protect public health, there is a need to identify zoonotic disease knowledge gaps and ensure preventive measures are in place to protect human and animal health. We evaluated zoonotic disease awareness among 199 households in rural communities residing upstream and downstream of the Musogoro river in Western Rwanda. As part of a larger study on child health and nutrition, we conducted surveys and collected data on household demographics, livelihoods, livestock ownership, zoonotic disease knowledge, and preventive health practices. We used Fisher’s exact tests and logistic regression models to identify factors associated with zoonotic disease awareness and handwashing behavior. Most study participants (79%) knew that zoonotic diseases can be transmitted from animals to people. Zoonotic disease awareness was not associated with participant age, education level, livestock ownership, or media access (owning a radio). However, handwashing after animal care was associated with livestock ownership, media access, and having sufficient drinking water available. Participants were significantly more likely to wash their hands after animal care (a hygiene practice that reduces the risk of zoonotic disease transmission) if they owned livestock or a radio. While the level of zoonotic disease awareness was high in the rural households surveyed, the source of information about zoonotic diseases was unclear. Owning a radio may increase exposure to public health behavior messaging, leading to higher levels of preventive health practices like handwashing. Identifying approaches to reach community members not aware of zoonotic diseases and continuing education on preventive health behaviors like handwashing has the potential to reduce the transmission of both emerging and existing zoonotic diseases.