, Volume 35, Issue 5, pp 320-325
Date: 19 Sep 2007

Impact of SARS on Avian Influenza Preparedness in Healthcare Workers

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Abstract

Background:

SARS was an unprecedented outbreak which brought about 1,755 infections and 302 deaths in Hong Kong. The similarity of SARS and avian influenza prompted us to examine the relationship between SARS experience and preparedness on a potential avian influenza outbreak.

Methods:

A self-administered questionnaire was delivered to nurses in Hong Kong to assess their attitude towards avian influenza; risk perception, and their relationships with previous level of exposure to SARS patients.

Results:

Nine hundred and ninety-nine respondents were included in data analysis. About half of them perceived there would be an avian influenza outbreak in Hong Kong. The majority accepted a personal risk of infection in the course of their work (72.7%), and prepared to take care of patients infected with avian influenza (84.0%). Respondents were classified into two groups: high exposure (44.1%) and low exposure (55.9%) as defined by having worked in SARS ward or hospitals. High exposure nurses were less likely to avoid patients, less inclined to change their job if they were required to take care of infected patients, and had therefore a more positive attitude towards an impending avian influenza epidemic. About half of the nurses had frequent involuntary recalls of incidents relating to SARS, the frequency of which was positively correlated with knowing a person suffering from long-term complications of SARS.

Conclusion:

Healthcare workers who had been actively involved in SARS work were more “positive” in responding to the impending avian influenza epidemic. Whether the level of preparedness can be sustained would need to be further explored.