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The good news: Americans recognize that good hygiene is an effective line of defense against the novel H1N1 influenza virus.
The bad news: The awareness has not driven a change in how frequently people wash their hands or clean surfaces that they touch all the time, which are important, effective behaviors for avoiding the flu.
In a nationwide survey of 888 adults conducted on behalf of the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), respondents were asked about their level of concern about the virus; how that concern has changed their hygiene habits; and whether they believed implementing steps such as good hygiene can help avoid the spread of H1N1 (the survey was conducted by Echo Research August 6-9, 2009). Among the key survey findings:
• Nearly two-thirds of households surveyed (65 percent) expressed concern about H1N1 flu (women more than men: 72 percent, 57 percent, respectively).
• More than 9 out of 10 (93 percent) believe that steps such as good hygiene will help limit its spread.
•Only one-third of respondents said they changed their overall hygiene habits in response to the growing concerns about H1N1.
Health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), say that the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is the predominant influenza virus in circulation worldwide. Consequently, CDC states that H1N1 poses the potential to cause significant illness with associated hospitalizations and deaths during the U.S. influenza season.
"Simple but effective, everyday practices can help protect public health and guard against colds, flu and the H1N1 virus," said Nancy Bock, SDA’s vice president of education.
"We can combat H1N1 at home, in schools and the workplace if everyone does their part,” Bock adds. “Preventive healthcare is literally in our hands. Common sense hand hygiene and surface cleaning and disinfection practices will play an important role this year during the cold and flu season to help keep people healthy."
SDA recommends taking the following steps at home, work and school:
• Washing hands with soap for a minimum of 15-20 seconds routinely, particularly after coughing, sneezing, using the restroom and before eating meals.
• Having all family members carry a portable hand sanitizer product when access to soap and water is potentially inaccessible.
• Routinely cleaning and disinfecting home and office surfaces, including countertops, desks, keyboards, telephones and doorknobs and handles.
A total of 888 American adults (446 men and 442 women) were surveyed August 6-9, 2009, on behalf of SDA, by Echo Research. The survey has a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percent.