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Fuzzy virus: Public engagements with influenza diagnosis and implications for effective responses to pandemics Davina Lohm (Monash University)

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Presentation on theme: "Fuzzy virus: Public engagements with influenza diagnosis and implications for effective responses to pandemics Davina Lohm (Monash University)"— Presentation transcript:

1 Fuzzy virus: Public engagements with influenza diagnosis and implications for effective responses to pandemics Davina Lohm (Monash University)

2 Influenza is an age old problem. (Image Source: https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1680&bih=933&q=influenza&oq=influenza&gs_l=img.12..0l j5j ac.1.31.img Lvttl8V2Y7k)

3 Swine influenza (H1N1) In 2009 a Swine influenza (H1N1) pandemic struck. (Image Source: https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1680&bih=933&q=influenza&oq=influenza&gs_l=img.12..0l j5j ac.1.31.img Lvttl8V2Y7k)

4 Methods During 2011 and 2012 qualitative interviews and focus groups were conducted in Sydney, Melbourne and Glasgow as part of an international research project on public responses to pandemic influenza. Qualitative data were gathered through interviews (57 individuals) and focus group discussions (10 focus groups with 59 individuals).

5 Is this flu? Well people often mistake colds and coughs for flu. And flu to me is being bedridden. I’ve only ever been bedridden twice; so once straight after I had the, the injection and the other time would have been about six years ago when my husband was overseas and I was so ill I had to ring my mum and dad. Mum would pick me up to take me to the doctor’s ‘cause I couldn’t drive my car. I had, you know, headache, chills. I just wanted to die, basically. And that to me is the flu. You know, muscle aches and, and the whole thing. Whereas coughs and colds, and blocked noses and runny noses, and sneezing is not the flu. (Roslyn, Melbourne, 61 – 70, healthy)

6 Is this flu? I think the symptoms...the information I got was that the symptoms seemed to vary, you didn’t really...you know I remember going on the uhm, just having a look at out of interest on the NHS website saying ‘Is this flu?’ you know ‘Is this swine flu?’ you know kind of a self diagnosis page that they have and...I was just putting different things in and trying different combinations and everything I put in seemed to say ‘You may have swine flu,’ ‘You may have swine flu’ you know and it didn’t seem to matter what combination you put in or how many boxes you ticked or how many boxes you didn’t tick ( Maude, Glasgow, 31 – 40, pregnant) (Image Source: https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1680&bih=933&q=influenza&oq=influenza&gs_l=img.12..0l j5j ac.1.31.img Lvttl8V2Y7k)

7 Did I have Swine influenza? It was probably a few weeks [that others she knew were unwell] but I remember I was one of the ones that fell really sick and I tried to avoid it but, in the end, I was having really high fevers and that so I ended up being admitted [to hospital]. But I was never told whether it was confirmed swine flu or not. But I’m assuming it was.(Cindy, Sydney, 18 – 30, respiratory illness) So I went to the doctor and the doctor asked me about all my symptoms and at the time my doctor was in [another town], so I had to wait until I was well enough to go and get the train and then go up to [another town] and go to the doctor and she said ‘Well it sounds as if you had swine flu, but obviously you’ve got over it’ she said ‘but its left you with a chest infection.’ (Cameron, Glasgow, 41 – 50, healthy)

8 Action against uncertainty No, no. No, I don't think it’s possible to avoid catching it. I mean to one, to avoid catching it you would have to live in a, in a bubble. And I mean they don't even really know how it’s, how it’s spread. That’s only from what I’ve read. (Archie, Sydney, 61 – 70, respiratory illness) (Source: https://www.google.com/search?site=&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=1680&bih=933&q=influenza&oq=influenza&gs_l=img.12..0l j5j ac.1.31.img Lvttl8V2Y7k)

9 Recovery beliefs Like you sort of just, you think, maybe you just think influenza as a common cold sort of thing. And it’s like, “It’ll pass. I might go to the doctor’s and get some, something to help me get through it,” or something. But yeah, I don't know... It’s just like, just ignore it and push through. (Chris, Melbourne, 18 – 30, healthy) I guess I don't see if I’m a healthy 38-year-old that, that getting the flu is a, a major health risk. I think I’ll be sick for five days and then I’ll be fine. (Gill, Melbourne, 31 – 40, healthy)

10 Conclusion The difficulty of readily diagnosing influenza infection problematises adherence to public health messages that call for social isolation of those infected.

11 Conclusion In order to maintain ontological security in the face of influenza risk publics: Take actions to reduce the spread of influenza despite their scepticism about the efficacy of such actions Have ‘normalised’ influenza infection due to its familiarity and constructed a belief in it being benign and non life threatening to them.


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