Concern about Pandemic Flu Has Positive Impact on Personal Hygiene Behaviors

Washington, 27 May, 2010 - Fear of the H1N1 virus appears to be the driving factor behind the adoption of preventive behaviors, according to a study published in the June issue of AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, (APIC). Researchers studying the public response during the recent H1N1 outbreak in Hong Kong concluded that fear about the pandemic prompted residents to frequently wash hands and wear face-masks.

A team led by Joseph T.F. Lau, PhD, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, investigated the prevalence of self-reported preventive behaviors in response to the influenza A/H1N1 epidemic in Hong Kong, including wearing face-masks regularly in public areas, wearing face-masks after the onset of influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms, and frequent hand-washing. Previous research shows that both frequent hand-washing and wearing face-masks can control the spread of influenza.

The study’s results showed that 47 percent washed hands more than 10 times per day, 89 percent wore face-masks when having influenza-like illness (ILI) and 21.5 percent wore face-masks regularly in public areas.

The authors note that pandemic outbreaks “have had a sustained impact on personal hygiene and protective behaviors. Our study showed that people with a higher level of mental distress due to A/H1N1 were more likely to adopt some of the three preventive measures.” They go on to say that emerging infectious diseases “provide a window of opportunity for health education to improve personal hygiene.”

According to the authors, these preventive behaviors can play an important role in controlling pandemic influenza, but they cautioned that there is a lack of data on their adoption by the public and see a need for more research.

(AJIC 2010; 38[5]).

Full text of the article is available to journalists upon request; contact Liz Garman, APIC, 202-454-2604, egarman@apic.org to obtain copies.

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Notes to Editors
“Prevalence of preventive behaviors and associated factors during early phase of the H1N1 influenza epidemic,” by Joseph T.F. Lau, PhD, et al., appears in the American Journal of Infection Control, Volume 38, Issue 5 (June 2010) published by Elsevier.

Authors:
Joseph T.F. Lau, PhD, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
Sian Griffiths, PhD, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
Kai-chow Choi, PhD, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China
Chunqing Lin, PhD, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China

About AJIC: American Journal Of Infection Control
AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control (www.ajicjournal.org) covers key topics and issues in infection control and epidemiology. Infection preventionists, including physicians, nurses, and epidemiologists, rely on AJIC for peer-reviewed articles covering clinical topics as well as original research. As the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, Inc. (APIC), AJIC is the foremost resource on infection control, epidemiology, infectious diseases, quality management, occupational health, and disease prevention. AJIC also publishes infection control guidelines from APIC and the CDC. Published by Elsevier, AJIC is included in MEDLINE and CINAHL.

About APIC
APIC’s mission is to improve health and patient safety by reducing risks of infection and other adverse outcomes. The association’s more than 13,000 members direct infection prevention programs that save lives and improve the bottom line for hospitals and other healthcare facilities around the globe. APIC advances its mission through education, research, collaboration, practice guidance, public policy and credentialing. Visit APIC online at www.apic.org. For consumer-related information, visit www.preventinfection.org.

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