January 30, 2006

Bird flu not a top concern of Americans: survey

By Megan Rauscher

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A new survey shows that
Americans fear car accidents, terror attacks, hurricanes and
other natural disasters more than they fear bird flu.

The national survey of 1,000 Americans was conducted
between January 24 and January 25 by marketing and
communications research company HCD Research, based in
Flemington, New Jersey, in response to recent reports that bird
flu may enter the U.S.

"What was really clear from the survey was that with all
the talk about bird flu, the more mundane things like
hurricanes and car accidents seem to be more on people's minds
than the less likely things like bird flu," Glenn R. Kessler,
managing partner of HCD Research, told Reuters Health.

While more than half of respondents (59 percent) think that
it is likely that bird flu will reach American soil, less than
half (44 percent) are concerned that bird flu will affect them
personally or their families.

Americans appear to be "really rational" when it comes to
bird flu, Kessler said. "If you look at the top two fears --
car accidents (#1) and natural disasters (#2) -- these are
events that actually happen; the rest are speculative," he

Number three on the list of fears is terrorist attacks
employing a dirty or nuclear bomb, followed by bioterrorism,
such as the release of smallpox or anthrax, bird flu and
airline accidents.

According to the survey, Americans are split regarding
their confidence in the federal government's ability to handle
a bird flu outbreak in the U.S., with 36 percent indicating
that they are confident, 37 percent indicating they are not
confident, and the rest being undecided.

"I think now people have a lot of reticence about
government response to disasters," Kessler said, perhaps owing
to the Hurricane Katrina debacle.

Dr. Arthur Kover, a sociologist and consulting director at
HCD Research added in a statement: "Clearly, the federal
government must make its case that it is prepared to
effectively handle any bird flu epidemic."