Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS:
Title: Pets, purity and pollution : understanding the sociology of zoonotic disease transmission
Author: Robin, Charlotte Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 7964 1555
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2018
Availability of Full Text:
Access from EThOS:
Access from Institution:
The way in which people respond to zoonotic disease is embedded in their interactions and relationships with animals and the spaces animals occupy in society. Consequently, we cannot understand zoonotic disease transmission without understanding our relationship with animals. This thesis explores human-rat interactions in the context of a group of rodent-borne zoonotic viruses that have recently emerged in the United Kingdom; hantaviruses. The aim of this research was to explore people's relationships and interactions with rats, to gain a deeper understanding of how they interpret and respond to the risk of rodent-borne zoonotic diseases. This research used an interdisciplinary approach, combining sociology and epidemiology. It was divided into two phases; phase one used qualitative methods, specifically in-depth interviews with selected at-risk groups; pet rat owners, farmers and pest control technicians. Phase two used the findings from phase one to implement a cross-sectional study of pet rat owners. The data presented in this thesis illustrate how the rat is 'constructed' as a different animal by the groups in this study, despite being the same species. These contrasting constructions of rats influence how the study groups understand risk and health. Pet rat owners create a clear distinction between pet and wild rats; elevating its status from animal to pet sanitises the rat, so it is no longer associated with dirt and disease. Pet rats are safe and clean within the confines of the home and can only be contaminated with disease through contact with the outside world. This conception enables rat owners to interact with their pets with no concern about potential transmission of zoonotic infections. This was reflected in the cross-sectional study of pet rat owners, where nearly all respondents (96%) stated they kissed their pet rat and just over a third (37%) engaged in 'rodentistry'; letting their pet rat clean their teeth. Farmers see rats as a contaminant that pollutes anything it comes into contact with. While other animals exist within defined spaces on the farm, rats do not adhere to these boundaries and are inherently problematic. Pest control technicians understand rats as an animal that is just trying to survive. In this context, rats are not inherently problematic; the problem lies with the humans who define the spaces in which rats are not allowed to exist. For all groups, place is important in how rats are understood and consequently infection control practices were focused at maintaining or repairing the physical or conceptual boundaries around the spaces where rats were, or were not, expected to be. This work forms the basis for new insights into the sociology of rodent-borne disease transmission, an area of research that has previously been neglected. It highlights the importance of recognising how animals as vectors are understood from different perspectives, and how public health organisations need to consider these perspectives when communicating health messages.
Supervisor: Christley, Robert ; Perkins, Elizabeth ; Watkins, Francine ; Vivancos, Roberto Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral