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ZOONOTIC ENCOUNTERS AT THE SLAUGHTERHOUSE: PATHWAYS AND POSSIBILITIES FOR THE CONTROL OF CYSTIC ECHINOCOCCOSIS IN NORTHERN MOROCCO

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Document pages: 24 pages

Abstract: This study traces the biosocial dynamics of Echinococcus granulosus – a zoonotic tapeworm spread between dogs, livestock and people – at slaughterhouses in Morocco. One of the most important parasitic zoonoses worldwide, this neglected cestode is responsible for a debilitating, potentially life-threatening, human disease and significant livestock production losses. Transmission can be interrupted, among other ways, by restricting dogs from eating cyst-infected livestock viscera. Recent epidemiological studies in Sidi Kacem province, northern Morocco, found that government-operated slaughterhouses were ‘hotspots’ for hydatid cysts in livestock and infection in dogs. An ethnographic approach was used to compliment these studies, exploring ‘how’ and ‘why’ cysts were being openly discarded. All seven visited slaughterhouses had low levels of hygiene, oversight and infrastructure. This was described locally as perpetuating a sense of ‘chaos’ that normalized (un)hygienic practices and justified the ignoring of state rules and regulations. However deference to ‘poor’ infrastructure, both physically and symbolically, served to under-emphasize local institutional logics, which were mediated by prevailing risk perceptions, economic practices and local socio-political norms. These included inter-departmental government relationships, the motivation of veterinary technicians, the political lobbying of butchers and market-based mitigation strategies. The study shows the importance of understanding E. granulosus from a biosocial perspective, and the need for more long-term, participatory and integrated ‘One Health’ approaches for neglected zoonotic diseases.

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