According to a new survey six in ten Americans believe there will be widespread swine flu cases this fall or winter.
According to the national poll conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, parents are more likely than people without children to believe this will occur, 65 percent saying it is very or somewhat likely compared to 56 percent of people without kids.
Advertisement"These results suggest Americans are likely to support public health officials in prioritizing preparations for the possibility of a serious H1N1 outbreak in the fall or winter," said Robert J. Blendon, Professor of Health Policy and Political Analysis at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Despite a majority believing that a serious outbreak is likely, 61 percent of Americans are not concerned about their personal risk-that is, that they or their family members will get sick from influenza A (H1N1) in the next year.
The survey further suggests that the World Health Organization (WHO)'s decision to raise the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6 did not dramatically impact Americans' level of concern about their personal risk.
Only 22 percent of Americans knew that the WHO had raised the level, and only 8 percent of Americans said it made them more concerned that they or their family would get Influenza A (H1N1) in the next 12 months.
One approach that has been used in the recent outbreak as a means to slow the spread of Influenza A (H1N1) is the closing of schools.
In this survey, substantial numbers of parents who have children in school or daycare report that two-week closings in the fall would present serious financial problems for them.
About 51 percent of these parents report that if schools/daycares closed for two weeks, they or someone else in their household would likely have to miss work in order to care for the children.
43 percent of these parents report that they or someone in their household would likely lose pay or income and have money problems; 26 percent of these parents report that they or someone in their household would likely lose their job or business as a result of having to stay home in order to care for the children.
The situation is likely to be worse for minority parents. More African American and Hispanic parents of children in school/daycare indicate that they are likely to lose pay or income and have money problems, as compared to whites.
And, more African American and Hispanic parents of children in school/daycare report that they or someone in their household would likely lose their job or business, as compared to whites.
If the outbreak in the fall or winter is serious and leads to large-scale workforce absenteeism, the survey suggests the possibility of substantial difficulties for many people and the economy as a whole.
If people had to stay home for 7-10 days because they were sick or because they had to care for a family member who was sick, 44 percent indicate that they would be likely to lose pay or income and have money problems, and 25 percent reported that they would be likely to lose their job or business.
"The findings highlight the important role that employers would play during a future outbreak. Flexibility in their employee policies may help minimize some of the problems identified in this survey," said Blendon.
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