Impact of disease characteristics and knowledge on public risk perception of zoonoses
Zoonoses represent a global public health threat. Understanding lay perceptions of risk associated with these diseases can better inform proportionate policy interventions that mitigate their current and future impacts. While individual zoonoses (e.g. bovine spongiform encephalopathy) have received scientific and public attention, we know little about how multiple zoonotic diseases vary relative to each other in lay risk perceptions. To this end, we examined public perceptions of 11 zoonoses across 12 qualitative attributes of risk among the UK public (n = 727, volunteer sample), using an online survey. We found that attribute ratings were predominantly explained via two basic dimensions of risk related to public knowledge and dread. We also show that, despite participants reporting low familiarity with most of the diseases presented, zoonoses were perceived as essentially avoidable. These findings imply that infection is viewed as dependent upon actions under personal control which has significant implications for policy development.