National Survey Shows Avian Flu is a Top Concern This Year

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ROSWELL, Ga. -- More than half the people in a new survey about the upcoming cold and flu season say they are concerned about the possibility of a flu strain jumping from animals to humans. The results represent a big shift from a year ago when only one percent of respondents to a similar question reported being worried about avian or bird flu. Both surveys were conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional. 

Some of the other key findings in the new survey were:

·        Fifty-one percent of respondents expect to catch one or more colds this season. 

·        Twelve percent expect to get the flu. 

·        Thirty-seven percent of survey respondents say scientists should find a cure for the common cold because of the economic benefits that would result from reduced absenteeism at work and school.  

·        Fifty-eight percent feel there are more important priorities in the world. 

·        Seventy-one percent of respondents believe frequent hand washing is the most effective way for people to avoid spreading cold and flu germs to others. 

·        Sixty-three percent of respondents said they believe the best way to prevent the spread of germs in schools is to have students wash their hands several times a day, particularly after sneezing or coughing and before eating.  The next best method was having teachers distribute waterless hand sanitizers to students, followed by giving them germ-killing tissues.


·        Fifty-eight percent of respondents selected strategic placement of waterless hand sanitizers in public places and workplaces as the most effective way to encourage more frequent handwashing during cold and flu season. 

Workplace Worries

For working respondents, the top worry about getting the flu involved those closest to them, with a quarter saying that infecting friends and family was what bothered them most about getting the flu. Concern for the health of co-workers was minimal, with only 5 percent of employed respondents worried about passing germs to colleagues. 

Forty-three percent of employed respondents said their primary defense against cold and flu germs in the workplace was frequent handwashing. Forty percent of employees reported bringing their own cold and flu supplies to work, such as facial tissue and waterless hand sanitizers. Eleven percent said they didnt have either at work, but wished their employers would provide these products. 

When employees take a sick day for the cold or flu, they appear to do just that. Sixty-three percent said when they were home sick they slept. Few workers reported giving in to other distractions such as surfing the Internet, shopping or straightening up around the house.   

When sick co-workers show up at the office, 46 percent of their colleagues say what theyd like to do most is send them packing. Twenty-eight percent stay as far away as possible, avoiding situations that involve close contact, such as meetings or lunches, as well as surfaces and objects touched by sick co-workers. Nine percent said they would give ill colleagues a box of germ-killing tissues and a bottle of instant hand sanitizer and urge them to wash their hands as often as possible. 

This awareness of how germs are spread carried over from the workplace to the food service arena in a question that asked people what they would do if a food service worker touched his or her eyes, nose or mouth and then handled food.  Seventy-eight percent said they would take some kind of action, either by leaving without buying food or by telling the worker that the behavior was unsanitary.  

The Germiest Places

What is the most likely place to pick up cold and flu germs outside the home?  Schools, according to 29 percent of respondents.  This was followed by healthcare facilities, public restrooms, public transportation, crowded elevators, offices or other workplace settings. 

Cold and Flu Misconceptions

The survey also asked people to determine whether several statements were true or false. Here are the results: 

·        Nearly nine in 10 people said it was true that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Correct, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other sources. 

·        However, 43 percent thought the flu vaccine could give you the flu, which is not the case, according to the CDC.  

·        A third of those surveyed also thought antibiotics were a good way to treat colds and the flu. Wrong again. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics don't work to cure them. 

·        A quarter thought cold and flu germs could survive on surfaces for only a few minutes. Also false. Studies have shown that viruses can live two hours or longer.  

·        Seventy-six percent thought there was no such thing as a tissue that can kill viruses, a technology that does indeed exist. 

·        And the belief that a wet head in winter can give you a cold was held by 29 percent of people even though it also isnt true.

Survey Methodology

The survey of 1,042 adults nationwide was conducted by telephone from October 7-10, 2005 by Opinion Research Corporation. The margin of error is plus or minus three percent. Of those surveyed, 622 were employed either full or part-time outside the home.  The margin of error for questions involving employed respondents was plus or minus four percent.

Kimberly-Clark Professional, based in Roswell, Ga., provides tissue, towel, and skin care products for away-from-home washrooms, as well as apparel, gloves and wipers for workplace settings. 

Source: Kimberly-Clark Professional