During 2009’s H1N1 influenza pandemic British people took fewer precautions to stop it spreading than other nations, according to a new report.
Seventy-three per cent of people quizzed by researchers in the UK admitted they were not more careful to make sure they used a tissue while coughing and sneezing, despite the highly-publicised risks of spreading the viral infection.
The survey, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, asked almost 5,000 people in Argentina, Japan, Mexico, the USA and the UK about what they had done to avoid catching the illness during the pandemic three years ago. Potential actions included having a H1N1 vaccination, washing hands more regularly, using sanitisers and avoiding close physical contact with others.
Almost half of the Brits (47%) who took part in the study said they had not washed their hands or used sanitiser any more than they had before the risk of swine flu.
The responses given in the UK varied greatly from the answers given by people in other countries. For example 77% of Mexicans were more vigilant about using a tissue to cover their mouth when coughing or sneezing. And in all the countries involved apart from the UK, more than 66% cleaned their hands more often during the pandemic with 89% of Argentinians improving their hand hygiene.
The survey found no correlation between people taking non-pharmaceutical measures to avoid spreading H1N1 and being vaccinated against the disease. In all five countries looked at by the researchers, the number of people who received the swine flu jab was low ranging from 21% in Britain to 33% in Mexico.
The survey also looked at people’s opinions of advice given by their governments during the 2009 pandemic. In most places a high proportion were happy with government policies and recommendations but around 50% of Brits said they would not have supported official advice to keep away from public places or cover mouths and noses with a mask.