Assessing the potential risk of, and possible responses to, zoonotic diseases on the development of recreational use of

Lead Research Organisation: Forest Research
Department Name: Centre for Ecosystems Soc and Biosecur

Abstract

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Publications

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Description We combined knowledge from three strands of work, namely risk assessment, risk perception and communication, and scenario analysis. Our study sites were selected to provide a range of environmental conditions and countryside use. We chose peri-urban parkland, accessible lowland forest and heath and remote upland forest as represented by Richmond Park on the fringe of Greater London, the New Forest in Southern England, and Exmoor in South West England.



Our risk assessment study at the study sites showed that ticks were present in very many more habitats than are currently emphasised in risk communication; modelling of the population dynamics indicates complex and in some instances surprising responses to management of host populations. The biological knowledge emphasises the wisdom of preventative actions, and in particular the merit of post-visit precautions because selective avoidance of tick habitats does not seem feasible, and tick eradication is impossible though local tick abundance may be reduced.



The research into risk perception and communication considered patients diagnosed with Lyme disease, countryside visitors, and those who make a living in land-based activities. Neither those who had suffered disease, nor a broader sample of countryside users considered avoidance of the countryside or major modification of behaviour during a visit, as an appropriate response to risk of Lyme. There was a distinct preference for post-visit precautions, an option that is consistent with the delayed transference of bacteria from tick to human, but which would be less appropriate with some other zoonoses. Information on the disease and precautions was obtained from a wide variety of land-based organisations. Despite a view that the risk was small compared to many other hazards, many organisations nevertheless provided information - particularly to staff, but also to visitors. Information varied in content, and there was interest in developing greater consistency of approach between different organisations.



The development of scenarios of future land management and visitor use enabled the stakeholders to identify fresh perspectives on future challenges in visitor and disease management. Profiles of potential users for the case study sites suggested considerable variation in countryside knowledge, and thus prior preparedness for hazards such as ticks. Interactions between local and national level initiatives in providing information, for example at time of outbreak of new disease, were seen to be particularly challenging.



We integrated our findings in two conceptual frameworks. A conceptual framework was developed to identify the potential organisational responses to disease incidence, one of which was influencing behaviour of countryside users. A second framework provides cues to customise risk communication to the specifics of time and place, making use of comprehensive biological understanding. There is scope for further refinement of these frameworks to identify those involved in choice of response option, and participating in risk communication.



The main implications of our findings are that the proportionate and effective response to most zoonotic diseases is to influence behaviour so that people using the countryside take appropriate precautions to protect themselves. Many organisations still need to understand that influencing behaviour is about more than risk communication which in turn requires more than just the provision of information; so, successful behaviour change will require a diverse range of actions from different people and organisations. A range of disciplines needs to be involved in considering how to encourage precautionary behaviours, so that strategies are based on sound biological knowledge, as well as an understanding of risk communication, how messages are received and which sources are trusted. We consider that land managers are key to achieving success and that they could work with health professionals to share and develop knowledge, formulate response strategies, and identify target audiences. Together, health authorities and land managers could establish an authoritative knowledge base on which individuals and organisations could draw. There should be new organisational links to enable this to happen.
Exploitation Route The research was shared with stakeholders through the Project Practitioner Panel and a Project Advisory Board, and at a RELU Research workshop on risk and uncertainty related to animal and plant diseases. There is the potential to use research from this project in risk communication and engagement with countryside users. Partnerships of land managing organisations and those involved in human health would be influential.

The research continues to yield new scientific insights and academic publications.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government/ Democracy and Justice

URL http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/animaldiseaserisks
 
Description Assessing and communicating animal disease risks for countryside users 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented at the 'Forest Research research update (Winter 2009)' event, organised by Forest Research in association with the Institute of Chartered Foresters and CONFOR.

Colleagues of those attending have since requested further information
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
URL http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-7W6DTC
 
Description Assessing and communicating animal disease risks for countryside users 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Project briefing at invitation to Defra officials.

Officials subsequently attended other project workshops
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Presentation to Scottish Lyme Disease Symposium, NHS Highland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation stimulated considerable discussion, and contributed to agreement that further work was required by partner organisations to communicate over the risks of Lyme Disease.

I have subsequently been asked to join a working group of NHS and Health Protection Staff
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Public engagement through accompanied visits within Alice Holt 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact ESRC Festival of Social Science/National Science and Engineering Week

Participants expressed desire to continue visiting the area and said they were better aware of the risks
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://www.forestry.gov.uk/fr/INFD-7N3EWJ
 
Description Public health surveillance and climate change : results from the EDEN-TBD project : delving into complexity 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop presentation, Sarah Randolph: French Institute for Public Health Surveillance workshop

Ongoing dialogue with selected attendees
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009