by Elke Mitchell, Stephen Bell, Li Jun Thean, Aalisha Sahukhan, Mike Kama, Aminiasi Koroivueti, John Kaldor, Andrew Steer, Lucia Romani
Scabies is endemic in Fiji and is a significant cause of morbidity. Little is known about the sociocultural beliefs and practices that affect the occurrence of scabies and impetigo, or community attitudes towards the strategy of mass drug administration that is emerging as a public health option for scabies and impetigo control in Fiji and other countries. Data were collected during semi-structured interviews with 33 community members in four locations in Fiji’s Northern Division. Thematic analysis examined participants’ lived experiences of scabies and impetigo; community knowledge and perceptions about scabies and impetigo aetiology and transmission; community-based treatment and prevention measures; and attitudes towards mass drug administration. Many indigenous Fijian (iTaukei) participants noted extensive and ongoing experience of scabies and impetigo among children in their families and communities, but only one participant of Indian descent (Indo-Fijian) identified personal childhood experience of scabies. Scabies and impetigo were perceived as diseases affecting children, impacting on school attendance and families’ quality of sleep. Awareness of scabies and impetigo was considerable, but there were major misconceptions around disease causation and transmission. Traditional remedies were preferred for scabies treatment, followed by biomedicines provided by local health centres and hospitals. Treatment of close household contacts was not prioritised. Attitudes towards mass drug administration to control scabies were mostly positive, although some concerns were noted about adverse effects and hesitation to participate in the planned scabies elimination programme. Findings from this first study to document perspectives and experiences related to scabies and impetigo and their management in the Asia Pacific region illustrate that a community-centred approach to scabies and impetigo is needed for the success of control efforts in Fiji, and most likely in other affected countries. This includes community-based health promotion messaging on the social dynamics of scabies transmission, and a campaign of education and community engagement prior to mass drug administration.