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Poll: Hypothetical anthrax attack and antibiotics
Date:2/19/2010

d likely follow public health officials' initial recommendations to go get antibiotics from a dispensing site after an anthrax attack. Among parents, 91% said they would be likely to go get the antibiotics for their children. Of adults who said they would be "very likely" to go to the sites, the vast majority said they'd go even if they knew they had to wait in line for two hours (94%).

However, the poll also finds that a sizeable minority of adults may not follow through on the public health recommendations. Of adults who said they were likely to go to the sites, only a little more than half (57%) said they would start taking the antibiotics right away. Thirty-nine percent said they would hold on to the pills and either wait to take them until they found out if they were truly exposed to anthrax (35%) or for the foreseeable future (4%). The responses of parents intending to get the pills paralleled these results, with 60% of those who were likely to go to the dispensing site saying they would start giving their children the pills right away, while 38% saying they would hold on to the pills and either wait to see if their child was truly exposed (36%) or for the foreseeable future (2%).

"It's concerning that some people will not take the antibiotics after picking them up at the dispensing site because such 'wait and see' behavior could put those who were exposed at greater risk for serious illness or even death in the event of this kind of anthrax attack," said Gillian SteelFisher, research scientist in the HSPH Department of Health Policy and Management and assistant director of the Harvard Opinion Research Program. "Experts believe that antibiotics have the greatest effect when started quickly before any clinical signs of disease and this may be before people are certain they have been exposed."

The poll results also call attention to potential areas of resistance to public health recommendations by examining the reasoning among those
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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