, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 71-82
Date: 28 May 2008

Knowledge and Misconceptions Regarding Upper Respiratory Infections and Influenza Among Urban Hispanic Households: Need for Targeted Messaging

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Background To characterize knowledge and misconceptions regarding viral upper respiratory infections (URI) among urban Hispanics and identify correlates of greater knowledge. Methods In-home interviews conducted by trained research coordinators in 453 primarily Hispanic households (2,386 members) in northern Manhattan. Results The majority of respondents attributed URI to weather-related conditions. While most agreed that colds and flu were caused by viruses, 88.1% also agreed that they were caused by bacteria, and a small proportion reported that URI may be caused by evil eye (‘mal de ojo’, 7.1%) or sudden fright (‘susto’, 3.3%). Only 29.8% agreed that colds and flu would improve without medication; 89.9% stated that antibiotics are needed to treat viral throat infections. Most were well versed about influenza vaccination and reported that a recommendation from a healthcare provider would definitely influence them to get vaccinated. Discussion Misconceptions about the role of antibiotics in the treatment of viral infections pose considerable risk in this population. Explicit, targeted recommendations from healthcare providers regarding vaccination and judicious antibiotic use as well as media campaigns targeted to Hispanics should be effective strategies for reducing misconceptions and improving health behaviors.