Article Text

This article has a correction. Please see:

Download PDFPDF

The impact of community psychological responses on outbreak control for severe acute respiratory syndrome in Hong Kong
  1. G M Leung,
  2. T-H Lam,
  3. L-M Ho,
  4. S-Y Ho,
  5. B H Y Chan,
  6. I O L Wong,
  7. A J Hedley
  1. Department of Community Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong
  1. Correspondence to:
 Professor T H Lam, Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Building, The University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China;


Objective: To examine the public’s knowledge and perception of SARS and the extent to which various precautionary measures have been adopted.

Design: Cross sectional survey.

Setting: General population of Hong Kong at the height of the SARS outbreak (29 March to 6 April 2003).

Participants: 1115 ethnic Chinese adults.

Main results: Forty per cent did not recognise fomites as a possible mode of transmission whereas 55.1% believed that the infection could be transmitted airborne. A large proportion (30.1%) believed they were very or somewhat likely to contract SARS while only one quarter believed they were very likely to survive if they contracted the disease, benchmarked against an actual case fatality ratio of 2.8% at the time of the survey and 15%–20% according to current best estimates. Precautionary measures directed against person to person droplet spread were generally adopted by most while the prevention of transmission through fomites was not practised as frequently. Respondents with higher risk perceptions and a moderate level of anxiety were most likely to take comprehensive precautionary measures against the infection, as were older, female, more educated people as well as those with a positive contact history and SARS-like symptoms.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that the promotion of protective personal health practices to interrupt the self sustaining transmission of the SARS virus in the community must take into account background perceptions of risk and anxiety levels of the public at large. Continuing public education about preventive measures should be targeted at the identified groups with low current uptake of precautions.

  • SARS
  • cross sectional study
  • Hong Kong
View Full Text

Statistics from

Supplementary materials

  • .

    HTML Page - index.htslp

    Author Correction

    Please note that there is an omission from the Acknowledgements section. The additional acknowledgements are shown here:

    Professor Charles D Spielberger and Dr Paul Yung are acknowledged for granting permission to use the original and Chinese version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.


      Request Permissions

      If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

      Linked Articles

      • In this issue
        Carlos Alvarez-Dardet John R Ashton
      • Corrections
        BMJ Publishing Group Ltd