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Int J Behav Med. 2009;16(1):58-67. doi: 10.1007/s12529-008-9005-5. Epub 2009 Mar 10.

The perceived threat of SARS and its impact on precautionary actions and adverse consequences: a qualitative study among Chinese communities in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

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  • 1Health Protection Agency - Centre for Infections, London, UK.



Although the SARS outbreak involved few probable cases of infection in Europe, swift international spread of infections raised the possibility of outbreaks. In particular, SARS presented a sociopsychological and economic threat to European Chinese communities because of their close links with the outbreak's origins.


A qualitative study was conducted among Chinese residents in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands to identify the origins of SARS risk perceptions and their impact on precautionary actions and adverse consequences from the perspective of vulnerable communities living in unaffected regions. Analysis was informed by protection motivation theory.


Results revealed that information from affected Asia influenced risk perceptions and protective behavior among the Chinese in Europe when more relevant local information was absent. When high risk perceptions were combined with low efficacy regarding precautionary measures, avoidance-based precautionary action appeared to dominate responses to SARS. These actions may have contributed to the adverse impacts of SARS on the communities.


Experiences of European Chinese communities suggest that practical and timely information, and consistent implementation of protective measures from central governments are essential to protect vulnerable populations in unaffected regions from unnecessary alarm and harm during outbreaks of emerging infections.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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