Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Correspondence

Surfing the web during pandemic flu: availability of World Health Organization recommendations on prevention

Francesco Gesualdo1*, Mariateresa Romano1, Elisabetta Pandolfi1, Caterina Rizzo2, Lucilla Ravà1, Daniela Lucente1 and Alberto E Tozzi1

Author Affiliations

1 Ospedale Pediatrico Bambino Gesù, Piazza Sant'Onofrio 4, Rome, Italy

2 Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Viale Regina Elena 299, Rome, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:561  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-561

Published: 20 September 2010



People often search for information on influenza A(H1N1)v prevention on the web. The extent to which information found on the Internet is consistent with recommendations issued by the World Health Organization is unknown.


We conducted a search for "swine flu" accessing 3 of the most popular search engines through different proxy servers located in 4 English-speaking countries (Australia, Canada, UK, USA). We explored each site resulting from the searches, up to 4 clicks starting from the search engine page, analyzing availability of World Health Organization recommendations for swine flu prevention.


Information on hand cleaning was reported on 79% of the 147 websites analyzed; staying home when sick was reported on 77.5% of the websites; disposing tissues after sneezing on 75.5% of the websites. Availability of other recommendations was lower. The probability of finding preventative recommendations consistent with World Health Organization varied by country, type of website, and search engine.


Despite media coverage on H1N1 influenza, relevant information for prevention is not easily found on the web. Strategies to improve information delivery to the general public through this channel should be improved.