How quickly did bird flu go off the public radar? Results of a follow-up CATI survey of Australian adults
A survey of 200 Australian adults in May 2006 found reasonable levels of awareness, but low levels of concern, regarding bird flu. This paper reports on the changes in perceptions and attitudes that were identified in a follow-up survey conducted when bird flu was not the focus of widespread media coverage. A computer assisted telephone survey was conducted in August and September 2006. A total of 5,565 eligible households were contacted and 805 interviews completed (response rate of 14.5%). Bird flu fell from fourth to seventh most-frequently mentioned infectious disease. The majority of respondents were in favour of the government implementing quarantine procedures in the event of an outbreak, but less in favour of the government closing schools and offering people experimental vaccines or drugs. Respondents had low levels of awareness of preventive actions, but were generally willing to engage in these when they were identified. We found that within four months of the lmtral hlgh levels of concern bird flu was "off the radar" for the majority of the Austrahan population. One of the most important findings was that the general public appeared willing to engage in the appropriate preventive and protective behaviours, in the 'unlikely' event of a blrd flu outbreak in Australia, but was lacking awareness of what these behaviours are. Our results suooest that the Australian government wlll face a number of significant communication challenges in the event of an influenza pandemic. Not the least of these will be the need to communicate risk at the same time as educating people about appropriate preventive behaviours.