Recent research has revealed that concerns over contracting the pandemic flu has a positive impact on people's personal hygiene practices.
A team led by Joseph T.F. Lau, PhD, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, investigated the prevalence of self-reported preventive behaviours in response to the influenza A/H1N1 epidemic in Hong Kong, including wearing face-masks regularly in public areas, wearing face-masks after the onset of influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms, and frequent hand-washing.
The study's results showed that 47 per cent washed hands more than 10 times per day, 89 per cent wore face-masks when having influenza-like illness (ILI) and 21.5 per cent wore face-masks regularly in public areas.
The authors note that pandemic outbreaks "have had a sustained impact on personal hygiene and protective behaviours. Our study showed that people with a higher level of mental distress due to A/H1N1 were more likely to adopt some of the three preventive measures."
They go on to say that emerging infectious diseases "provide a window of opportunity for health education to improve personal hygiene."
According to the authors, these preventive behaviours can play an important role in controlling pandemic influenza, but they cautioned that there is a lack of data on their adoption by the public and see a need for more research.
The study has appeared in the June issue of AJIC: American Journal of Infection Control, the official publication of the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, (APIC).