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Open Access Research article

Influenza pandemic: perception of risk and individual precautions in a general population. Cross sectional study

Ivar S Kristiansen12*, Peder A Halvorsen23 and Dorte Gyrd-Hansen2

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Health Management and Health Economics, University of Oslo, Norway

2 Institute of Public Health, University of Southern Denmark at Odense, Denmark

3 Institute of Community Medicine, University of Tromsø, Norway

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:48  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-48

Published: 2 April 2007

Abstract

Background

An influenza pandemic may have considerable impact on health and societal functioning. The aim of this study was to explore people's reflections on the consequences of a pandemic.

Methods

Cross-sectional web-based survey of 1,168 Norwegians aged 16–82 years. The main outcome measures were answers to questions about a potential pandemic ("serious influenza epidemic"): statements about personal precautions including stockpiling Tamiflu®, the perceived number of fatalities, the perceived effects of Tamiflu®, the sources of information about influenza and trust in public information.

Results

While 80% of the respondents stated that they would be "careful about personal hygiene", only a few would stay away from work (2%), or move to an isolated place (4%). While 27% of respondents were uncertain about the number of fatalities during an influenza pandemic, 48% thought it would be lower than the estimate of Norwegian health authorities (0.05%–1%) and only 3% higher. At least half of the respondents thought that Tamiflu® might reduce the mortality risk, but less than 1% had personally purchased the drug. The great majority had received their information from the mass media, and only 9% directly from health authorities. Still the majority (65%) trusted information from the authorities, and only 9% reported overt distrust.

Conclusion

In Norway, considerable proportions of people seem to consider the mortality risk during a pandemic less than health authorities do. Most people seem to be prepared to take some, but not especially disruptive, precautions.