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UK patients were 'reluctant' to help stop swine flu spread

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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.

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Readers' comments (2)

  • michael stone

    I heard a bit about this on Radio 4.

    This study doesn't, I imagine, have the data (which would be very hard to assemble and to correctly interpret) to answer the more interesting question, of 'Can this tell us anything about which 'control measures' actually work ?'.

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  • I was with the Canadian Forces in 2009, was ordered to get the H1N1 shot (AREPANRIX by GSK GlaxoSmithKline) and had an adverse reaction to the vaccine. I received PERMANENT neurological, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and respiratory symptoms: dizziness, vertigo, irregular heart rhythms, shortness of breath, muscle weakness and pain, and numbness in hands and feet. My physical fitness changed from special forces fit to that of a 70 year old in a matter of days. Prior to the vaccination the Department of National Defence (DND) provided information advising side effects "having mild chills and fever a few days following the shot means it is working", and "There is a 1 in 1,000,000 chance of acquiring a serious neurological complication". According to GSKs product information provided by Health Canada, "neurological disorders" are "very rare (may occur with up to 1 in 10,000 doses)" and "if any of these side effects occur, please tell your doctor or nurse immediately" which differs from the information provided to soldiers. The DND also stated "It is not a live vaccine so it cannot give you the flu". According to Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist and an influenza expert at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, "In the early weeks of the pandemic that people who got the flu shot (H1N1) for 2008-09 winter seemed to be more likely to get infected with the pandemic virus than people who hadn't received the shot". Another study linked narcolepsy, a neurological disorders to the H1N1 vaccine, "Narcolepsy in association with pandemic influenza vaccination", September 2012, European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. You may also query the National Vaccine Information Center database of adverse reactions to vaccines (VAERS) which includes more than 11,465 events (adverse reactions) to the H1N1 vaccine, 3,390 symptoms and 61,500 reactions (more than 5 reactions per record). In the UK, the "FINAL PUBLIC SUMMARY - UK Suspected Adverse Reaction Analysis, Swine Flu (H1N1) Vaccines - Celevanpan and Pandemrix, 26 March 2010" details more than 8,600 suspected reactions classified into 650 reaction names. Other information to consider is from Richard Warrington, President of the Canadian Society of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, "Vaccination with Arepanrix has led to far more reports of anaphylaxis or significant allergic reactions than is normally expected for a flu vaccine." You may also ask your doctor and other Health care workers if they received the H1N1 vaccination and if they plan to remain up to date with all vaccinations. Reports from Canada, US, India, Hong Kong and other countries note a 50% vaccination rate among those who recommend and administer the immunization. According to Fox News "Most said they would pass on the H1N1 shot ... because they were afraid of side effects and doubted how safe and effective it would be." I asked my doctor and he didn't hesitate in saying "no way". Be informed and please choose wisely if you do plan to have your next flu shot or vaccination.

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