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Infection Control: H1N1 Hygiene Survey Results

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SCA Tissue North America’s Tork Brand surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. adults to uncover current perceptions about the H1N1 virus, knowledge on how the virus is spread and how it can be prevented, and how contracting the virus could impact their daily lives.

Dr. Allison Aiello, member of Tork’s Green Hygiene Council (TGHC) and assistant professor of Epidemiology at the University of Michigan-School of Public Health, is available to discuss survey results and hygiene best practices.

Unconcerned about H1N1. Thirty percent of U.S. adults are not at all concerned that they will become infected with the H1N1 virus this year. Men are less concerned than women, with 35 percent reporting they are not at all concerned about catching the virus. Twenty-six percent of women shared this response. Overall:
o Thirty percent are not at all concerned they will catch the virus this year
o Forty-two percent are somewhat concerned they will catch the virus this year
o Fifteen percent are concerned they will catch the virus this year
o Eight percent are very concerned that will catch the virus this year
o Six percent are extremely concerned they will catch the virus this year

A false sense of security. Despite predictions from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that 40 percent of the U.S. population could become infected with the H1N1 virus through 2010, the majority of U.S. adults (74 percent) think they are very or somewhat unlikely to contract the virus this year.
o Twenty-eight percent think it is very unlikely they will contract the H1N1 virus this year
o Forty-six percent think it is somewhat unlikely they will contract the H1N1 virus this year
o Twenty-two percent think it is somewhat likely they will contract the H1N1 virus this year
o Four percent think it is very likely they will contract the H1N1 virus this year

Divided on how the virus is spread. Half of women and 44 percent of men reported that the H1N1 virus is spread through coughing or sneezing. Thirty-eight percent of all U.S. adults think that the H1N1 virus is spread through exposure to the virus in public places. Overall:
o Forty-seven percent think the virus is spread through coughing or sneezing
o Thirty-eight percent think the virus is spread by exposure in public places (e.g. buses, schools, stores)
o Seven percent think the virus is spread by touching an infected person
o Five percent think the virus is spread by working or living near an infected person
o Three percent reported other methods of spreading the virus, including a lack of hand washing and poor sanitation practices

Relying on hand sanitizer. Overall, 93 percent of U.S. adults think hand sanitizer is at least somewhat effective at preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus.
o Five percent think hand sanitizer is extremely effective
o Fifteen percent think hand sanitizer is very effective
o Twenty-seven percent think hand sanitizer is effective
o Forty-six percent think hand sanitizer is somewhat effective
o Seven percent think hand sanitizer is not at all effective
Among those who think hand sanitizer is effective at preventing the spread of H1N1, 45 percent think alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the most effective formula for preventing the spread of the H1N1 virus. The remainder:
o Think alcohol-based and non-alcohol formulas are equally effective (26 percent)
o Think non-alcohol formulas are more effective (2 percent)
o Are unsure about which formula is more effective (27 percent)

Confident in protecting themselves. Half of U.S. adults are confident that they know the best way to protect themselves from contracting the H1N1 virus.
o Six percent of Americans are extremely confident in their knowledge
o Eleven percent of Americans are very confident in their knowledge
o Thirty-two percent are confident in their knowledge
o Forty-one percent are somewhat confident in their knowledge
o Nine percent are not at all confident in their knowledge

Good hand hygiene is key. Aligning with recommendations from the CDC, more than half of U.S. adults (54 percent) think frequent hand washing is best way to protect themselves from contracting the H1N1 virus. Other methods of protection include:
o Avoiding those who have the virus or appear to be sick (20 percent)
o Using hand sanitizer frequently (7 percent)
o Avoiding public places (e.g. buses, schools and stores) (7 percent)
o Some other method (3 percent)
Though 90 percent of those surveyed reported they think there is a way to prevent H1N1 infection, three percent think there is no way to prevent infection and seven percent are unsure.

Hand washing habits. More than one-third (37percent) of U.S. adults will not be washing their hands more frequently this year, despite warnings from the CDC.
o Twenty-six percent will wash their hands much more often
o Thirty-five percent will wash their hands somewhat more often
o Thirty-six percent will wash their hands the same amount
o One percent will wash their hands somewhat less often
o One percent will wash their hands much less often

Divided on hand drying. U.S. adults are divided on the most hygienic method of drying hands in general, with 27 percent reporting that paper towels remove the most germs and 25 percent claiming hot air dryers are the most effective. Other methods of effective hand drying include:
o High velocity jet air dryers (18 percent)
o “Air” or “drip” drying (nine percent)
o Cloth or linen towels (two percent)
o Eighteen percent are unsure of the best method

H1N1’s effect on employment. Of the 57 percent of employed U.S. adults (base of 1,207 Americans), 77 percent indicated that their job would be affected if they or a family member contracted the H1N1 virus. Twenty-three percent reported that if they or a family member became infected it would not affect their job. Ways H1N1 could affect  their employment include:
o Using paid sick days (36 percent)
o Work performance being affected (26 percent)
o Taking unpaid sick days (21 percent)
o Using paid vacation days (16 percent)
o Risk of losing job because of time taken off (six percent)
o Losing job because of time taken off (two percent)
o Other ways (six percent)

Skipping necessary prevention steps. Forty percent of U.S. adults surveyed got the “standard” flu shot last year, and despite more widespread recommendations this year, nearly half (48 percent) don’t plan to get a “standard” or H1N1 flu shot this year.
o Forty-eight percent plan to get the “standard” flu shot
o Thirty-six percent plan to get the H1N1 shot
o Forty-eight percent don’t plan to get either shot
Beyond the flu shot, 84 percent of U.S. adults currently have health insurance or are covered under a family member’s health insurance plan.

Survey Methodology
Harris Interactive fielded the study on behalf of SCA from September 15-17, 2009 via its QuickQuerySM online omnibus service, interviewing a nationwide sample of 2,123 U.S. adults aged 18 years and older.  Results were weighted as needed for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with non-response, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100 percent response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to be invited to participate in the Harris Interactive online research panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.