More than half the people in a new survey about the upcoming cold and flu season say they are concerned about the possibility of a flu strain jumping from animals to humans. The results represent a big shift from a year ago, when only 1% of respondents to a similar question reported being worried about avian or bird flu. Both surveys were conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on behalf of Kimberly-Clark Professional.
Some of the other key findings in the new survey were:
• 71% of respondents believe frequent hand washing is the most effective way for people to avoid spreading cold and flu germs to others.
• 58% feel there are more important priorities in the world.
• 58% of respondents selected strategic placement of waterless hand sanitizers in public places and workplaces as the most effective way to encourage more frequent hand washing during cold and flu season.
• 51% of respondents expect to catch one or more colds this season.
• 37% of survey respondents say scientists should find a cure for the common cold because of the economic benefits that would result from reduced absenteeism at work and school.
• 12% expect to get the flu.
For working respondents, the top worry about getting the flu involved those closest to them, with a quarter saying that infecting friends and family was what bothered them most about getting the flu. Concern for the health of co-workers was minimal, with only 5% of employed respondents worried about passing germs to colleagues.
Forty-three percent of employed respondents said their primary defense against cold and flu germs in the workplace was frequent hand washing. Forty percent of employees reported bringing their own cold and flu “supplies” to work, such as facial tissue and waterless hand sanitizers. Eleven percent said they didn’t have either at work, but wished their employers would provide these products.
When employees take a sick day for the cold or flu, they appear to do just that. Sixty-three percent said when they were home sick they slept. Few workers reported giving in to other distractions such as surfing the Internet, shopping, or straightening up around the house.
When sick co-workers show up at the office, 46% of their colleagues say what they’d like to do most is send them packing. Twenty-eight percent stay as far away as possible, avoiding situations that involve close contact, such as meetings or lunches, as well as surfaces and objects touched by sick co-workers.
The Germiest Places
What is the most likely place to pick up cold and flu germs outside the home? Schools, according to 29% of respondents. This was followed by health care facilities, public rest rooms, public transportation, crowded elevators, offices or other workplace settings.
The survey also asked people to determine whether several statements were true or false. Here are the results:
• Nearly nine in 10 people said it was true that hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Correct, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other sources.
• However, 43% thought the flu vaccine could give you the flu, which is not the case, according to the CDC.
• A third of those surveyed also thought antibiotics were a good way to treat colds and the flu. Wrong again. Colds and the flu are caused by viruses, so antibiotics don’t work to cure them.
• A quarter thought cold and flu germs could survive on surfaces for only a few minutes. Also false. Studies have shown that viruses can live two hours or longer.
• Seventy-six percent thought there was no such thing as a tissue that can kill viruses, a technology that does indeed exist.
• And the belief that a wet head in winter can give you a cold was held by 29% of people even though it also isn’t true.