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Rumor-Related and Exclusive Behavior Coverage in Internet News Reports Following the 2009 H1N1 Influenza Outbreak in Japan

  • Jun Shigemura (a1), Nahoko Harada (a2), Masaaki Tanichi (a1) (a3), Masanori Nagamine (a4), Kunio Shimizu (a4), Yoshiaki Katsuda (a5), Shinichi Tokuno (a6), Gentaro Tsumatori (a6) and Aihide Yoshino (a1)...

Abstract

Objective

We sought to elucidate news article reporting of adverse public psychosocial behaviors, in particular, rumor-related coverage (eg, panic, demagoguery) and exclusive behavior coverage (negative behaviors, eg, discrimination, bullying) during the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) influenza pandemic in Japan.

Methods

We examined 154 Internet news-site articles reporting adverse public psychosocial responses in the first 60 days of the outbreak. Rumor-related coverage and exclusive behavior coverage were dichotomously coded as included or not. Moreover, we assessed whether or not health information (eg, coping methods, virus toxicity information) or emphasis on information quality (eg, importance of information, cautions about overreactions) were simultaneously reported.

Results

Rumor-related coverage (n=120, 77.9%) was less likely to simultaneously report public health information (eg, toxicity information, health support information, and cautions about overreactions; P<.05). Conversely, exclusive behavior coverage (n=41, 26.6%) was more likely to report public health information (P<.05).

Conclusions

Rumor-related coverage was less likely to have accompanying public health information, whereas exclusive behavior coverage was more likely to include it. During public health crises, it is essential to understand that rumors and exclusive behaviors have adverse effects on the public and that accompanying public health information may help people take proactive coping actions. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:459–463)

Copyright

Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Jun Shigemura, MD, PhD, Department of Psychiatry, National Defense Medical College, 3-2 Namiki, Tokorozawa, Saitama 359-8513, Japan (e-mail shige@ndmc.ac.jp).

References

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