Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Americans Concerned About Risk of H1N1 Flu

Americans appear to be taking the H1N1 flu more seriously than they did in the spring when the virus began causing widespread illness. The latest poll by USA Today shows that of the 1,007 adults surveyed, one in three believe they or a family member will probably contract H1N1, up from one in five in May. Sixty-one percent now accept the government’s assessment of the novel flu’s risks, up 5 percent since May, and the majority of people, 55 percent, say for the first time they will get vaccinated, up 9 percent.

Seventeen percent say they worried yesterday that they would get flu, up from 8 percent in June. “I’m not surprised to see that worry is increasing,” says Kristine Sheedy, who heads the H1N1 vaccine communication task force for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “When your kids go back to school, you naturally think more about the possibility that they’ll get sick.”

However, despite the increasing concern, the poll showed that 62 percent of people believe it’s unlikely that they or a family member will get sick. Sheedy says that may be the result of a misperception of the number of people who are susceptible to flu. “People recognize that influenza’s out there and that it can be severe, but they say, ‘I’m not personally worried,’” Sheedy says. “That’s one of the big challenges we face. Take seasonal influenza—when we add up the high-risk groups and their close contacts, that’s the majority of the population.”

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