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One in three Americans is worried about the H1N1 influenza outbreak, but more than half of the people are paying extra attention to good hygiene and preparedness as a way of protecting themselves from the virus, according to a new poll by the American Red Cross.
The survey of 1,004 U.S. adults, conducted May 1-4, shows that four out of five of those surveyed reported that they are following the swine flu story very or fairly closely, and 36 percent said they were either very worried (8 percent) or somewhat worried (28 percent) about this flu virus.
But the swine flu outbreak has prompted people to take more steps to prevent the spread of the virus, with 55 percent saying they are paying extra attention to proper handwashing, 48 percent covering their coughs more, and 41 percent disinfecting surfaces more. In addition, more than one in three have used hand sanitizers more and made an extra effort to avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes.
"This swine flu virus continues to have the potential to spread throughout the U.S. Families, businesses and organizations should continue to follow good public health practices and to review and update their preparedness plans," said Scott Conner, senior vice president of American Red Cross Preparedness and Health and Safety Services. "Even if this version of the swine flu virus is not as dangerous as initially feared, public health officials worry that it could come back in a more severe form later this year. The Red Cross believes that prudent preparedness steps now can help keep families healthy throughout the year."
The Red Cross and public experts have recommended that common sense and basic public health practices should be followed. These include covering your cough/sneeze with a tissue, frequent handwashing, visiting a doctor for flu-like symptoms and staying home when sick.
The survey did show that 11 percent said someone in the household had gone to work or school when they had the seasonal flu, and 22 percent indicated that they have gone to school or work within five days of having flu symptoms. Public health experts strongly advise people who are sick with the swine flu -- or any other flu -- to stay home from school or work in order to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Other survey findings include:
-- Two in five are misguided about flu shots as 39 percent incorrectly believe that a seasonal flu shot offers some protection from H1N1.
-- Information on teaching children to wash hands carefully is important to three-quarters of the public.