Volume of print media coverage and diagnostic testing for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus during the early phase of the 2009 pandemic

B. Olowokure*, O. Odedere, Alex Elliot, A. Awofisayo, E. Smit, A. Fleming, H. Osman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Impact of an infectious disease on public health diagnostic health services may be affected by the volume of media coverage which can amplify risk perception and increase demand for services. Objectives: To examine the association between volume of newspaper reports and laboratory testing for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in one English health region during the early phase of the pandemic. Study design: Cross-sectional retrospective review identifying newspaper articles on A(H1N1)pdm09 in major regional (sub-national) newspapers from 27 April 2009 through 5 July 2009, and comparing the weekly frequency of articles with the weekly number, and positivity rate, of laboratory-confirmed cases of A(H1N1)pdm09 during the same time period. Results: A positive correlation (r=0.67; p=0.02) was seen between the volume of school-related articles and the number of laboratory-confirmed cases. Increased testing during the most intense period of the pandemic was mainly seen in school-aged children (5-15. years) and adults (≥16. years). Adults accounted for the highest number of tests, but had the lowest positivity rates, which were highest among school-aged children. As the volume of media coverage decreased this was followed one week later by a fall in the number of tests and positivity rates in each age-group. Conclusion: The results presented suggest a temporal association between volume of media reporting and number of laboratory tests. The increased volume of media reporting, in particular the intense school-related coverage, may have raised population concern leading to an increased demand for diagnostic testing. These results have potential implications for future pandemic preparedness planning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-78
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Virology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012


  • H1N1 virus
  • Laboratory diagnosis
  • News media
  • Pandemic influenza
  • Risk perception
  • School


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