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Ned Tijdschr Geneeskd. 2010;154:A1686.

[Mexican flu: risk perception in the general public, precautionary measures and trust in information provided by the government].

[Article in Dutch]

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GGD Rotterdam-Rijnmond, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.



To gain insight into how the Dutch general public viewed the risk during the course of the recent pandemic, into how many and which people took precautionary measures, and into the extent to which people trust the information provided by the government.


Online survey, cross-sectional (the first two measurements) and follow-up investigations (the last two measurements).


Between 10 and 17 November 2009, 754 people completed the online questionnaire. Earlier survey rounds were held in May (n = 572), June (n = 620) and August (n = 934).


In November 2009, 38% of respondents considered the Mexican flu a serious disease and 36% viewed themselves as vulnerable to this flu. Feelings of anxiety had decreased versus earlier survey rounds. Of the respondents, 73% took precautionary measures against the disease. This concerned mainly hygiene measures, which were most frequently taken by people who were anxious, found hygiene measures effective, paid considerable attention to the media information on flu, and found information from the government reliable and those without children living at home. More than fifty percent (58%) of respondents indicated that they would be willing to have the vaccination if they would be eligible for this. Of the other 315 respondents, 40% indicated that they feared serious side effects, 35% that they doubted the effectiveness of the vaccine and 33% that they considered the vaccine to be insufficiently tested. Almost half of the respondents had read the information leaflet 'Fight the flu', which was sent to every home in the country. One third had seen the television campaign. Governmental institutions, notably the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport and the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment, were the most important sources of information and more than half of the respondents trusted this information.


During the course of the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) pandemic, anxiety among the Dutch general public decreased progressively, while people increasingly considered themselves more vulnerable to the flu. The public therefore had a realistic view of the situation. Three quarters of the general public had taken precautionary measures against the flu. More than fifty percent would be willing to have the vaccination if they would be eligible for this. The most important reason for not wanting the vaccination was fear of serious side effects and doubts about the effectiveness of the vaccine. This is a point of attention for the development of public information campaigns about vaccinations in the future.

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