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Public Response to H1N1 Flu Varies Between Countries

Adoption of preventive behaviors differs between countries, but doesn't lower odds of vaccination

FRIDAY, Oct. 5 (HealthDay News) -- There are considerable differences in the adoption of preventive behaviors in response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic between countries, although adoption of these behaviors does not impact the likelihood of getting vaccinated, according to a study published online Oct. 5 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Gillian K. SteelFisher, Ph.D., from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, and colleagues compared adoption of preventive behaviors in response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic among the public in five countries. Data were collected from 900 people in Argentina, Japan, Mexico, and the United Kingdom, and from 911 people in the United States. Individuals were surveyed regarding their adoption of non-pharmaceutical preventive behaviors or vaccinations to protect themselves or their family from the pandemic.

The researchers found that there were wide differences between countries in the adoption of preventive behaviors, although across counties, certain personal protective behaviors such as handwashing (53 to 89 percent) were more frequently adopted than social distancing behaviors such as avoiding public gatherings (11 to 69 percent). Across countries, the likelihood of getting vaccinated was not reduced by adoption of non-pharmaceutical behaviors. Across all countries there was support for government recommendations related to school closure, avoiding public gatherings, and wearing masks in public.

"The optimum mix of public health measures during pandemic influenza episodes is not yet clear, and further studies into the cost-effectiveness of different interventions are also urgently needed," write the authors of an accompanying editorial. "This study serves as an important reminder that to succeed against emerging pandemics, solutions must be sensitively adapted to the cultural, social, and economic circumstances of the populations affected."

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