University Student Knowledge and Perception of Influenza

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Rachel Gur-Arie, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
Influenza has shown its potential to affect and even kill millions of people within an extremely short time frame, yet studies and surveys show that the general public is not well educated about the facts about influenza, including prevention and treatment. For this reason, public perception of influenza is extremely skewed, with people generally not taking the disease as seriously as they should given its severity. To investigate the inconsistencies between action and awareness of best available knowledge regarding influenza, this study conducted literature review and a survey of university students about their knowledge, perceptions, and action taken in relationship to influenza. Due to their dense living quarters, constant daily interactions, and mindset that they are “immune” to fairly common diseases like influenza, university students are a representative sample of urban populations.  Domestic and international studies in locations such as London and Turkey have previously investigated university student knowledge and perception of influenza (Wilson and Huttlinger, 2010; Purssell and While, 2010; Hulya et al., 2010). These studies support the notion that university students are severely misinformed regarding influenza as a disease (Seale et al., 2012). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 54% of the world’s population lived in cities as of 2014 (Urban population growth). Between 2015 and 2020, the global urban population is expected to grow 1.84% per year, 1.63% between 2020 and 2025, and 1.44% between 2025 and 2030 (Urban population growth). Similar projections estimate that by 2017, an overwhelming majority of the world’s population, even in less developed countries, will be living in cities (Urban population growth). Results of this study suggest possible reasons for the large gap between best available knowledge and the perceptions and actions of individuals on the other hand. This may lead to better-oriented influenza policy, education initiatives, and effective prevention and treatment plans, while generally raising excitement and awareness surrounding public health and scientific communication.