What does cockfighting have to do with it?

I wished to highlight today a paper recently published in the veterinary disease surveillance literature which I found particularly interesting. The study, led by French and Thai researchers, looked at how cultural practices may shape zoonotic diseases surveillance, and can be found in the journal Transboundary and Emerging Diseases.

cockfighting and disease surveillance
image found on expertvagabond.com

When faced by the under-reporting of zoonotic disease outbreaks like those of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI),  authorities ought to look into the determinants of passive surveillance reporting in order to improve its effectiveness. The team of researchers interviewed native chicken farmers in rural Thailand in a bid to better understand what may motivate them/or discourage to report HPAI suspicions to sanitary authorities. And while technically illegal, the lucrative cockfighting business is still going strong.

“Results show that the presence of cockfighting activities in the area negatively affected the willingness of all chicken farmers and other actors to report suspected HPAI cases. The high financial and affective value of fighting cocks contradicted the HPAI control policy based on mass culling.”

Interestingly, cockfighting rings also constituted the center of poultry health information networks, allowing disease awareness information to diffuse rapidly to the rest of the network through social ties and “the shared purpose of protecting valuable cocks”.

This nice paper illustrates well the importance of understanding the economic, social and cultural determinants of passive disease surveillance and the necessity to account for them if one wants to run an effective surveillance system.

So if you can’t fight’em…don’t necessarily join them… but at least build bridges with these informal networks.

Nice work A. Delabouglisse and colleagues!

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