Study Objective: To report the evolution in perceptions and behaviours of the general public in response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemic in Hong Kong.
Design: Ten similar and sequential telephone surveys were conducted during outbreak of SARS, which are classified as belonging to the first and second phases of the epidemic.
Setting: Hong Kong, China.
Participants: 1397 Hong Kong residents between 18 and 60 years of age.
Main outcome measures: Perceptions and behaviours to SARS and its prevention.
Results: Most of the respondents believed that SARS could be transmitted via direct body contact and droplets. About half of respondents believed that SARS was curable, which increased in the initial phase and decreased in the second phase. Perceived chance of infection was low (9%) but fear of infection in public places was high (48%). Perceived efficacy of hygiene measures (wearing a mask: 82%, hand washing: 93%, and home disinfection: 75%) remained high in both phases and the perceived efficacy of avoiding crowded place, and using public transportation, etc, increased initially and decreased in the second phase. In parallel, use of the three hygiene measures increased significantly in the first phase and remained high for wearing a mask and washing hands in the second phase. Percentages of people avoiding crowded place and public transportation significantly increased initially and decreased in the second phase.
Conclusion: SARS related perceptions and behaviours evolved rapidly during the epidemic and Hong Kong residents quickly adopted appropriate SARS prevention measures. Timely dissemination of information seems effective in public health crises management.
- community response
- SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome
- PWH, Prince of Wales Hospital
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