Senegal: Country Profile
The Republic of Senegal is a West African country with a population of more than 16 million people. Agriculture including livestock comprises a significant portion of the Senegalese economy. Zoonotic diseases are a risk in Senegal due to the proximity and frequency of interactions between humans and animals. Preparedness and response efforts during the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreak implemented by the Government of Senegal and its partners helped prevent the 2014 EVD outbreak in West Africa from spreading in Senegal. The government of Senegal has recognized the importance of a One Health approach to prevent and respond to future zoonotic disease outbreaks. Human and animal health stakeholders and their partners identified six priority zoonotic disease groups based on standard criteria that are agreed upon to guide investments and prioritization in addressing infectious disease threats.
Priority Zoonotic Diseases
The prioritization workshop identified six groups of PZDs: anthrax, bovine tuberculosis, Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) and Marburg, Rift Valley fever, avian influenza, and rabies.
Avian influenza is an infection by an influenza virus that can affect almost all species of birds, wild or domestic. It can be highly contagious, especially in chickens and turkeys, and can lead to extremely high mortality, especially in factory farms. The avian influenza virus sometimes infects other animal species, including pigs. An outbreak of avian influenza occurred in 2021 in the Thies region of Senegal, leading to the deaths of tens of thousands of birds.
Anthrax is a bacterial infection that typically affects animals and can pass from animals and animal products to humans, with limited human-to-human transmission. In endemic settings, anthrax affects primarily cattle, goats, sheep and the spores can remain in soil for years. It can spread to humans through open wounds on the skin, ingestion, or inhaling the spores. Anthrax is not well known, and very few people indicate that they had heard the name of the disease but were not clear on the modes of transmission.
Bovine tuberculosis is caused by the bacterial species Mycobacterium bovis and causes bovine tuberculosis in farm animals (and tuberculosis in other wild animals). In 2016, according to WHO estimates, 147,000 new cases of zoonotic TB were reported in humans, including 12,500 deaths.
Ebola and Marburg: Ebola virus disease (EVD) is an infection caused by a virus of the filovirus family to which the Marburg virus also belongs. Humans are contaminated either by direct contact with infected bats (a rare event), or by handling infected animals found dead or sick in forests (a more frequent event). Human-to-human transmission is also possible and occurs through direct contact with the blood, secretions, organs or biological fluids of infected individuals. Ebola touched Senegal in 2014 after an infected traveler from Guinea arrived in Dakar, and the outbreak was very quickly contained.
Rift Valley Fever (RVF) is a viral infection that spreads most commonly to humans from livestock or wild animals via mosquitoes. It can also be spread through direct contact with blood or bodily fluids of animals such as sheep, goats, or camels. RVF can cause spontaneous abortion in animals, and assisting with abortions is a common exposure. Farmers, abattoir workers, and veterinary or laboratory staff are high risk groups. Mosquito control and wearing protective equipment when exposed to blood or bodily fluids of infected animals are the main prevention methods. RVF is endemic in northern Senegal.
Rabies remains a widespread disease across the globe, responsible for tens of thousands of deaths worldwide each year. It is a viral infection transmitted by contact with saliva of infected mammals, mainly through bites and scratches and in most places, commonly through dogs. Children are particularly vulnerable to rabies. Rabies is endemic and a reportable disease in Senegal.
One Health Landscape
A stakeholder mapping exercise identified 313 peripheral actors involved in health risk communication and 19 institutions. The actors are composed mainly of individuals, members of breeder associations, community-based organizations, private veterinarians, veterinary auxiliaries and community-based radio hosts or journalists. They mainly work in livestock, livestock trade, processing of animal products and veterinary care. The 19 institutions include nine international organizations. Some of the key institutions are: Senegalese Red Cross, Service for the sanitary control at the air borders of Senegal, Center for Health Emergency Operations, International Organization for Migration, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases, Order of Veterinary Doctors of Senegal, Agronomes et Vétérinaires Sans Frontières (AVSF), Directorate of Veterinary Services, ARED (Associates in Research and Education for Development), High National Council for Global Health Security “One Health”, Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), Directorate of National Parks/Ministry of the Environment and Sustainable Development (SPH), Division of Consumer Affairs and Safety / Minister of Commerce (DCSC), National Service of Education and Information for Health (SNEIPS), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS).
Read the stakeholder mapping report
Summary of existing Breakthrough ACTION research
Searching through published literature revealed a substantial gap in understanding of behavioral factors related to the PZDs in Senegal in comparison to some of its neighbors. To address this gap, the Breakthrough ACTION team conducted behavioral research related to the priority zoonotic diseases. Informed by the literature review, the Breakthrough ACTION Senegal team conducted a qualitative formative research study through in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, observations, and a mapping exercise among diverse participant groups, including hunters, butchers, herders, and people who process animal products. The study aimed to identify the social, cultural and individual determinants of risk prevention, prevention and response behaviors in Senegal, with respect to the six priority zoonoses.
The main results indicated that risk behaviors are numerous and varied and are often due to limited understanding of how the PZDs are transmitted from animals to people, low risk perception for zoonotic transmission, financial barriers to desired practices, and issues in the physical environment that limit, for example, how much space can be kept between humans and animals. High risk behaviors identified through the research included: cohabitation with animals, frequent interactions with animals in places of breeding, trade, processing of animal products, or handling of their bodies for slaughter or medical treatment without proper personal protective equipment or hygienic practices. For example, respondents reported using their bare hands to touch the body of sick animals; failing to wear nose coverings, boots, or gloves when entering animal pens or bedding; or otherwise handling animal products, especially meat, blood, and its derivatives without following proper safety precautions, putting individuals at risk for zoonotic contamination. These risky practices are noted among veterinary workers as well as among different categories of farmers, meat sellers and slaughterhouse workers.
Community members also reported killing sick animals and consume the meat without the services of a veterinarian to examine the animal before slaughter or the carcass before consumption. Many fruits collected in the bush, where wild animals such as bats and monkeys live, are eaten half by an animal which puts individuals at risk of viral contamination. In addition, boiling milk is an unknown practice that, in the perception, is not justified as long as the milk is from a cow who appears to be healthy.
Read more about individual and sociocultural determinants of risk and prevention behaviors related to Senegal’s priority zoonotic disease groups in the research report.
Case study on SBC response
The findings of the formative research conducted in 2019 in Senegal were instrumental in the development of a national PZD communication strategy as well as in the design of Senegal’s first cross-cutting PZD communication campaign, known as Aar malayi, aar askan wii (“protecting animals, protecting ourselves”). This cohesive campaign, which was implemented in 2021, focused on both increasing awareness of the PZDs and the One Health concept, and promoting a limited set of cross-cutting prevention behaviors. A mix of channels including radio, billboards, bus advertisements and TV messaging, supported by a strong set of community engagement activities, ensured the visibility of the campaign in both rural and urban areas. A post-exposition study is currently underway to better understand the campaign’s effects.
The PZD research findings have also informed continued capacity building with the agents of the Senegalese national hygiene service, who began conducting home visits in 2021 to increase household-level awareness of PZDs and related risks.