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Public Underst Sci. 1997 Jul;6(3):247-67.

Kaleidoscoping public understanding of science on hygiene, health and plague: a survey in the aftermath of a plague epidemic in India.

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National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies, New Delhi, India.


In September 1994 a plague epidemic hit a number of cities in India. Though the spread of the disease was controlled within a short period of about one month, its influences on various channels of information, on the functioning of government departments (especially health and sanitation), on the scientific community and on people's scientific information level were remarkable. This paper analyzes the responses of 1127 individuals interviewed in December 1994. The data indicates high levels of informedness about health, hygiene and plague, with little reference to extra-scientific explanations of the causes of the epidemic. Respondents expressed a high degree of confidence in the modern system of medicine. From this analysis we also infer that the public could not be described as 'superstitious', 'unscientific' or 'unhygienic': only when denied access to information and civic amenities did they show extra-scientific thinking or 'unhygienic' behaviour.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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