Epidemiology and Infection

Original Papers

Pandemic influenza

Changes in knowledge, perceptions, preventive behaviours and psychological responses in the pre-community outbreak phase of the H1N1 epidemic

J. T. F. LAUa1a2 c1, S. GRIFFITHSa3, D. W. H. AUa1 and K. C. CHOIa1

a1 Centre for Health Behaviours Research, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

a2 Centre for Medical Anthropology and Behavioural Health, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou, China

a3 School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

SUMMARY

To investigate the changes in community responsiveness during the pre-community-outbreak phase of the H1N1 epidemic in Hong Kong, a pooled sample of 999 adults was interviewed in three surveys (S1, S2, S3) from 7 May to 6 June 2009. Over time, fewer people felt confident in staying free from H1N1 infection in the following year (S1, 63·3%; S3, 46%; P<0·001). The level of distress due to H1N1 remained modest throughout the study period. People's confidence in the government's ability to control a large-scale H1N1 outbreak declined slightly at the third survey (S1, 80·5%; S3, 73·8%; P=0·025). Across the three surveys, respondents remained vigilant with frequent adoption of preventive measures (e.g. wearing face masks in public areas when suffering from influenza-like symptoms and frequent hand-washing). The public was generally supportive of the Hong Kong government although misconceptions regarding the disease were common. Provision of evidence-based public-health education is still warranted as the disease outbreak unfolds.

(Accepted July 21 2010)

(Online publication August 27 2010)

Correspondence:

c1 Author for correspondence: Professor J. T. F. Lau, Associate Director, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Director, Centre for Health Behaviours Research, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Faculty of Medicine, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 5/F, School of Public Health and Primary Care, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, NT, Hong Kong. (Email: jlau@cuhk.edu.hk)

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