BACKGROUND: Assessment of general public's knowledge and attitudes toward the development and prevention of new disease outbreaks is imperative because they have profound effects on health behaviors and may contribute to the control of the epidemic.
PURPOSE: To investigate the level of knowledge and attitudes towards the influenza A(H1N1) outbreak across various ethnic groups and socio-demographic backgrounds in Malaysia. METHOD: A cross-sectional, population-based, computer-assisted telephone interview exploring knowledge and attitudes regarding influenza A(H1N1) was conducted in Malaysia. Between July 11 and September 12, 2009, a total of 1,050 respondents were interviewed (response rate 69.3%).
RESULTS: The mean total knowledge score for the overall sample was 7.30 (SD 1.961) out of a possible score of 13 (Chinese had the highest scores, followed by Indians, then Malays). Some erroneous beliefs about the modes of transmission were identified. The majority of the participants (73.8%) perceived the A(H1N1) infection as often deadly. Despite the overestimation of the severity of A(H1N1) infection, high confidence in preventing infection and low perceived susceptibility of infection were reported. Influenza A(H1N1)-related stigma was prevalent and exhibited differences across ethnic groups.
CONCLUSIONS: Findings suggest that provision of education and clear information are essential to correct the misconceptions, and increase perceived susceptibility to infection so that the general public will take precautions against A(H1N1) infection.