Influence of public hesitancy and receptivity on reactive behaviours towards releases of male Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes for dengue control

M. O. Lwin, Z. Ong, C. Panchapakesan, A. Sheldenkar, L. T. Soh, I. Chen, X. Li, W. Niah, K. Vasquez, S. Sim and L.-C. Ng,  PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases,  16:e0010910. 2022.

Singapore, a highly urbanized Asian tropical country that experiences periodic dengue outbreaks, is piloting field releases of male Wolbachia-carrying Aedes aegyptimosquitoes with the aim of suppressing urban populations of the primary dengue vector Aedes aegypti. This study proposes and assesses a model to explain the roles of hesitancy and receptivity towards Project Wolbachia–Singapore in influencing reactive mosquito prevention behaviors (reactive behaviors) towards the release of Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes for residents living in the release sites. Interestingly, both hesitancy and receptivity predicted greater instances of reactive behaviors. The model also examines the roles of general knowledge about Wolbachia technology, perceived severity of mosquito bites, perceived density of mosquitoes, and social responsibility as predictors of hesitancy, receptivity, and reactive behaviors towards the release of Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes. Hesitancy towards the project mediated the effects of general knowledge, perceived severity of mosquito bites, and perceived density of mosquitoes on reactive behaviors towards the releases, although receptivity towards the project did not. Having less knowledge about Project Wolbachia–Singapore was associated with higher hesitancy towards the project and higher likelihood of performing reactive behaviors towards the releases. Individuals who perceive mosquito bites to be more severe and think that there are more mosquitoes in their living environments were also more likely to be hesitant about the project and practice reactive behaviors. However, both hesitancy and receptivity towards the project mediated the effect of social responsibility on reactive behaviors. Receptivity towards the project was driven by social responsibility, which was also associated with reduced hesitancy towards the project. Our findings suggest that, to address the hesitancy reported by a minority of participants, future outreach efforts should focus on strengthening the public’s sense of social responsibility

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