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A Tale of Two Cities: Community Psychobehavioral Surveillance and Related Impact on Outbreak Control in Hong Kong and Singapore During the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Epidemic

  • Gabriel M. Leung (a1), Stella Quah (a2), Lai-Ming Ho (a1), Sai-Yin Ho (a1), Anthony J. Hedley (a1), Hin-Peng Lee (a3) and Tai-Hing Lam (a1)...

To compare the public's knowledge and perception of SARS and the extent to which various precautionary measures were adopted in Hong Kong and Singapore.


Cross-sectional telephone survey of 705 Hong Kong and 1,201 Singapore adults selected by random-digit dialing.


Hong Kong respondents had significantly higher anxiety than Singapore respondents (State Trait Anxiety Inventory [STAI] score, 2.06 vs 1.77; P < .001). The former group also reported more frequent headaches, difficulty breathing, dizziness, rhinorrhea, and sore throat. More than 90% in both cities were willing to be quarantined if they had close contact with a SARS case, and 70% or more would be compliant for social contacts. Most respondents (86.7% in Hong Kong vs 71.4% in Singapore; P < .001) knew that SARS could be transmitted via respiratory droplets, although fewer (75.8% in Hong Kong vs 62.1% in Singapore; P < .001) knew that fomites were also a possible transmission source. Twenty-three percent of Hong Kong and 11.9% of Singapore respondents believed that they were “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to contract SARS during the current outbreak (P < .001). There were large differences between Hong Kong and Singapore in the adoption of personal precautionary measures. Respondents with higher levels of anxiety, better knowledge about SARS, and greater risk perceptions were more likely to take comprehensive precautionary measures against the infection, as were older, female, and more educated individuals.


Comparative psychobehavioral surveillance and analysis could yield important insights into generic versus population-specific issues that could be used to inform, design, and evaluate public health infection control policy measures.

Corresponding author
Department of Community Medicine, Faculty of Medicine Building, The University of Hong Kong, 21 Sassoon Road, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China
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Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology
  • ISSN: 0899-823X
  • EISSN: 1559-6834
  • URL: /core/journals/infection-control-and-hospital-epidemiology
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