Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Research Article

If You Ask Them, Will They Come? Predictors of Quarantine Compliance During a Hypothetical Avian Influenza Pandemic: Results From a Statewide Survey

Sarah Bauerle Bass c1, Sheryl Burt Ruzek, Lawrence Ward, Thomas F. Gordon, Alexandra Hanlon, Alice J. Hausman and Michael Hagen


Background: An influenza pandemic, such as that of the H1N1 virus, raises questions about how to respond effectively to a lethal outbreak. Most plans have focused on minimizing impact by containing the virus through quarantine, but quarantine has not been used widely in the United States and little is known about what would be the public's response. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that influence an individual's decision to comply with a hypothetical avian influenza quarantine order.

Methods: A total of 1204 adult Pennsylvania residents participated in a random digit dial telephone sample. The residents were interviewed regarding their attitudes about and knowledge of avian influenza and about compliance with quarantine orders, including staying at home or traveling to a government-designated facility.

Results: Analysis of variance showed differences among demographic groups in willingness to comply with quarantine orders, with women and individuals not presently employed more willing to stay at home or to travel to a government-designated facility if ordered. Those who did not regularly attend religious services were significantly less willing than those who did attend regularly to comply with any type of quarantine order. Regression analysis indicated that demographic variables, overall knowledge of avian influenza, attitudes about its severity, and the belief that the respondent and/or his or her significant other(s) may contract it were predictive.

Conclusions: The results of this study can provide health planners and policy makers with information for improving their efforts to conduct a quarantine successfully, including crafting messages and targeting information to certain groups of people to communicate risk about the epidemic.

(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:135-144)

(Received March 23 2009)

(Accepted February 10 2010)

Key Words:

  • disease outbreaks;
  • communicable diseases;
  • quarantine;
  • communication;
  • influenza, avian;
  • influenza, human;
  • public health practice;
  • communicable diseases, emerging;
  • public opinion;
  • communications media


c1 Correspondence: Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr Sarah Bauerle Bass, Associate Professor of Public Health, Temple University, 1301 Cecil B. Moore Ave, Room 927, Philadelphia, PA 19122 (e-mail: sbass@temple.edu).

Author Affiliations: Drs Bass, Ruzek, Gordon, and Hausman are with the Department of Public Health, Dr Ward is with the Department of Medicine, and Dr Hagen is with the Institute for Public Affairs, Temple University. Dr Hanlon is with the School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania.