Rift valley fever (RVF) is a re-emerging viral vector-borne disease with rapid global socio-economic impact. A large RVF outbreak occurred in Tanzania in 2007 and affected more than half of the regions with high (47 %) case fatality rate. Little is known about RVF and its dynamics. A cross sectional study was conducted to assess the knowledge, attitudes and practices regarding RVF in Kongwa and Kilombero districts, Tanzania. The study conducted a cross sectional survey among a randomly selected sample of individuals in 2011. We administered questionnaires to collect data on demographic characteristics, knowledge on symptoms, mode of transmission, prevention, attitudes and health seeking practices.

A total of 463 community members participated in this study. The mean (±SD) age was 39.8_±_14.4 years and 238 (51.4 %) were female. Majority of respondents had heard of RVF. However, only 8.8 % knew that mosquitoes were transmitting vectors. Male respondents were more likely to have greater knowledge about RVF. A small proportion mentioned clinical signs and symptoms of RVF in animals while 73.7 % mentioned unhealthy practices related to handling and consumption of dead animals. Thorough boiling of milk and cooking of meat were commonly mentioned as preventive measures for RVF. Majority (74.6 %) sought care for febrile illness at health facilities. Few (24.3 %) reported the use of protective gears to handle dead/sick animal while 15.5 % were consuming dead animals.

The study highlights the need to address the limited knowledge about RVF and promoting appropriate and timely health seeking practices. Rift valley fever outbreaks can be effectively managed with collaborative efforts of lay and professional communities with a shared perception that it poses a serious threat to public and animal health. The fact that this study was conducted in “high risk transmission areas” warrants further inquiry in other geographic regions with relatively low risk of RVF.