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More than 50% of Americans Don't See H1N1 As A Serious Public Health Threat

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, October 6, 2009

Though health providers nervously prepare for an influenza pandemic that threatens their hospitals, office practices and clinics, more than half of Americans surveyed don't think the virus will have a significant impact on public health.

That's the conclusion of a Harris Interactive telephone survey commissioned between Sept. 10 and 13 by the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions. Of the 2,500 people who received phone calls, 40% agreed to respond.

"The reality is we're never going to get to near epidemic reaction until something really, really hits us hard," says Paul Keckley, PhD, executive director, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.

Still, Keckley adds, public health officials should be congratulated for being so successful in spreading the word. The survey shows that while 52% don't think H1N1 will have a serious impact, 44% believe it will. "The fact that nearly half the population is aware (H1N1 could be a serious health issue) is a good thing."

Keckley says he was surprised at one finding from the survey, which is that many of those who responded said they did not see the urgency of getting vaccinated and are not associating the virus "as something that could pose a major threat."

That may be, he acknowledged, because precautionary public health messages about washing hands, coughing into one's sleeve, getting vaccinated and not going to work or school while sick have been coming since spring and throughout the summer.

"Maybe people have been anesthetized to the potential threat of this virus," Keckley notes.

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