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Biosecur Bioterror. 2005;3(3):246-55.

A population survey of smallpox knowledge, perceptions, and healthcare-seeking behavior surrounding the Iraq invasion--Connecticut 2002-03.

Author information

  • 1Infectious Disease Division, Connecticut Department of Public Health, Hartford, CT 06134, USA. katherine.marshall@po.state.ct.us

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Knowledge and perceptions about smallpox would probably influence public behavior following an intentional smallpox release. We assessed public knowledge, perceptions, and related healthcare-seeking behavior in Connecticut during the period of heightened interest in smallpox preparedness surrounding the Iraq invasion.

METHODS:

Smallpox-related questions were added to Connecticut's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, an ongoing statewide adult population-based survey during December 2002-July 2003 and November-December 2003.

RESULTS:

Among 4,074 respondents, when asked about a hypothetical febrile illness, 72% would first contact their primary care provider (PCP) on weekdays. During nights and weekends, respondents would depend nearly equally on PCPs and emergency departments (37% versus 36%). Most knew smallpox is transmissible from person to person (72%) but not that the majority infected with smallpox survive (38%) or that smallpox is most contagious after the appearance of rash (11%). Knowledge regarding transmissibility and mortality improved during the study period (p < 0.001). Only 31% recognized that vaccinia vaccine is riskier than routine vaccines; 41% would choose vaccination if available. Concern about smallpox's potential use as a weapon was high but decreased after President Bush declared "mission accomplished" in Iraq in May 2003 (p < 0.001).

CONCLUSIONS:

Despite national coverage of smallpox by the media, most respondents lacked basic knowledge regarding the disease. Incorrect perceptions regarding vaccinia vaccine's risks could increase inappropriate vaccine demand among nonexposed people with vaccine contraindications during a mass vaccination campaign. Current perceptions should inform future smallpox preparedness planning. In addition, both PCPs and emergency medicine clinicians should be targeted for education regarding smallpox diagnosis.

PMID:
16181047
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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