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OBJECTIVE To assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding heartworms (Dirofilaria immitis) and mosquito vectors among residents (dog owners and non-dog owners) in 2 neighborhoods in Florida and to perform entomological surveys of mosquito species in these neighborhoods and identify mosquito species infected with heartworm.
DESIGN Cross-sectional study.
SAMPLE 2,572 mosquitoes and 96 residents of 2 northern Florida communities.
PROCEDURES A 32-item questionnaire was orally administered to a convenience sample of community residents to collect information on their knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding heartworms. Afterward, mosquito larvae were collected from the respondents' properties and adult mosquitoes were collected in both communities from surrounding wooded areas and residences of respondents. Mosquito species distribution and D immitis infection rates were determined.
RESULTS Many residents (59% [57/96]) were unaware that mosquitoes transmit heartworms. Compared with non-dog owners, dog owners were significantly more likely to know about mosquito transmission, be concerned about heartworms, accurately estimate cost of treatment, and demonstrate willingness to pay for treatment. Most owners (71% [47/66]) administered heartworm preventives; those who did not cited lack of risk awareness, and cost was the least common reason. Of 28 mosquito species collected, Anopheles quadrimaculatus, Culex erraticus, Culex nigripalpus, Coquillettidia perturbans, Culiseta inornata, Aedes albopictus, and Aedes aegypti were positive for D immitis infection.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Findings suggested that improved veterinary and public health messaging regarding the role of mosquitoes as vectors, higher cost of heartworm treatment versus prevention, and mosquito reduction and avoidance methods is needed.