Avian influenza on people's minds

New Brunswick, NJResearchers at the Food Policy Institute at the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station have conducted a nationwide survey of public knowledge, attitudes, intentions and behaviors related to the threat of highly pathogenic avian influenza. The researchers conducted a total of 1200 telephone interviews on the topic between May 3 and June 5, 2006.

The results suggest that avian influenza is on the national agenda. Most Americans have heard about it and have talked about it, but dont know much about it. Most are aware of the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in people, birds, and poultry globally, but many are unaware that there have been no cases in humans or animals in the United States.

Despite this, Americans see their current risk of infection with avian influenza as low and are not particularly worried about it. They see the current supply of chicken products as relatively safe, and they continue to eat it. However, most see the risks of infection from avian influenza as much greater for other people than for themselves.

This tendency to believe that others are at greater risk may be a problem in getting messages across, in influencing perceived susceptibility, and in persuading people to adopt appropriate behaviors, says Sarah C. Condry, the lead author of the study.

The study focused on what American consumers would likely do if highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza were found in poultry in the United States. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in such a scenario, The chance of infected poultry or eggs entering the food chain would be extremely low because of the rapid onset of symptoms in poultry as well as the safeguards in place, which include testing of flocks and Federal inspection programs. Moreover, the USDA states, Cooking poultry, eggs, and other poultry products to the proper temperature and preventing cross-contamination between raw

Contact: Michele Hujber
732-932-7000 x4204
Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey

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