Britons are least likely to adopt protective behaviors against flu, survey finds

Researchers questioned nearly 5000 people in Argentina, Japan, Mexico, UK, and USA about the protective habits they adopted during the 2009 H1N1 'swine flu' pandemic, asking about non-pharmaceutical protective behaviours such as increased hand washing; social distancing behaviours such as avoiding hugging or kissing; and vaccination.

Nearly three quarters (73%) of British people surveyed admitted that they did not cover their mouth or nose with a tissue more frequently when coughing or sneezing during the pandemic, and just under half (47%) of British people did not wash their hands or use hand sanitiser more frequently. By contrast, almost two fifths (77%) of made increased efforts to cover their mouth with a tissue when coughing and sneezing, and in all other countries surveyed, at least two thirds of people said that they washed their hands more frequently during the pandemic, with the highest proportion of respondents (89%) claiming this in Argentina.

The researchers found that uptake of non-pharmaceutical behaviours such as increasing hand washing and avoiding large did not appear to affect the uptake of vaccination, although they noted that vaccination uptake was low in all of the countries surveyed. Mexico had the highest vaccination uptake, with a third (33%) of survey participants claiming that they had been vaccinated – in Britain, 21% of survey respondents said they had been vaccinated.

The researchers also examined whether respondents supported to distance themselves from others in various ways or adopt additional personal protective measures during the pandemic. In most countries, approval of these recommendations was fairly high, although again, responded less enthusiastically, with around half of respondents saying that they would not have approved of to avoid public places or wear a mask in public.

According to one of the study's authors, Dr Gillian SteelFisher of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, "The wide variations between countries in our study shows that in the event of another serious outbreak of infectious disease, public perceptions have to be taken into account to best tailor and communicate policy approaches that need public support in each country."

"Our findings suggest that promoting non-pharmaceutical interventions – such as handwashing and avoiding large public gatherings of people – do not jeopardise the adoption of vaccination, though the uptake of vaccines was low compared to other behaviours in all countries we surveyed. To maximise the effect of pandemic policies, future efforts might need to combine vaccination programmes with support for the most effective non-pharmaceutical interventions."*

Writing in a linked Comment, Alison Holmes of Imperial College London, UK, adds that, "Providing an effective response to emerging infectious disease remains a pressing global health challenge. Governments and international organisations have to promptly implement feasible and proportionate health protection measures, while accepting the limitations of the scientific evidence used to underpin those measures. Establishing which protective behaviours are effective is not sufficient – we need to understand how populations make sense of recommendations and adopt them."

More information: www.thelancet.com/journals/lan… (12)70206-2/abstract

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Predicting effectiveness of flu vaccination campaigns

Feb 09, 2010

A new study, published by Elsevier this month in Vaccine, describes a new method that assesses the impact and cost-effectiveness of a range of vaccination options. The model was applied to the 2009 Influenza H1N1 outbreak and pr ...

Swine flu vaccine must be free and safe for high uptake

Oct 28, 2009

Almost half of adults surveyed in Summer 2009 in Hong Kong (45%) say they would take up free swine flu vaccination. However, this figure drops to around 1 in 7 (15%) if the price they have to pay for the vaccine reaches $HK200 ...

Recommended for you

Restrictions lifted at British bird flu farm

6 hours ago

Britain on Sunday lifted all restrictions at a duck farm in northern England after last month's outbreak of H5N8 bird flu, the same strain seen in recent cases across Europe.

Recorded Ebola deaths top 7,000

Dec 20, 2014

The worst Ebola outbreak on record has now killed more than 7,000 people, with many of the latest deaths reported in Sierra Leone, the World Health Organization said as United Nations Secretary-General Ban ...

Liberia holds Senate vote amid Ebola fears (Update)

Dec 20, 2014

Health workers manned polling stations across Liberia on Saturday as voters cast their ballots in a twice-delayed Senate election that has been criticized for its potential to spread the deadly Ebola disease.

Evidence-based recs issued for systemic care in psoriasis

Dec 19, 2014

(HealthDay)—For appropriately selected patients with psoriasis, combining biologics with other systemic treatments, including phototherapy, oral medications, or other biologic, may result in greater efficacy ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.