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Fears of Pandemic Flu makes Americans Ready for Change

Most Americans are ready to make major changes in their lives and cooperate with public health officials' recommendations when faced with serious outbreak of pandemic flu according to the latest national survey // conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) Project on the Public and Biological Security.

However, the survey also finds that a substantial share of Americans would have no one to care for them if they become ill or would face serious financial problems if they had to stay home from work for a week or more.

Pandemic flu is a term used to describe a virulent human flu that causes a global outbreak, or pandemic, of serious illness. Because there is little natural immunity, the disease can spread easily from person to person. Currently, there is no pandemic flu, but health officials are concerned that the H5N1 avian flu which has caused about 250 illnesses and deaths among people in Asia, Africa, and Europe could become a pandemic flu. No humans or poultry in the Americas have been infected with this avian flu virus.

This HSPH survey was conducted to help public health officials in planning for a possible outbreak of pandemic flu and will be presented Thursday, Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C. at an Institute of Medicine workshop: Modeling Community Containment for Pandemic Influenza. HSPH Professor Marc Lipsitch will also be presenting historical analyses of interventions in the 1918 pandemic, comparing cities that intervened early and those that intervened late, to assess the difference in epidemic curves in these groups of cities.

This is the first report to attempt to tap the public's intentions when faced with the specific circumstances of an outbreak. The people interviewed were first read a scenario about an outbreak of flu that spreads rapidly among humans and causes severe illness. They were then asked how they would respond to and be affected by the circumstances that would arise from such an ou
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