H1N1 Flu Buzz Spreads; Hand Sanitizers Fly off Shelves

November 5, 2009

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More than six in 10 (63%) Americans are now worried that they themselves, someone in their household, or a close friend will fall victim to pandemic H1N1 influenza, commonly referred to as “Swine Flu,” according to a new telephone? poll of more than 1,000 US adults conducted in late October/early November 2009 by Ipsos Public Affairs.


Of those who are concerned, 26% are very concerned and 37% are somewhat concerned, Ipsos said, noting that? these percentages mark an increase in concern since May when just more than (51%) were worried about contracting the virus.

In contrast, roughly a? third (37%) say that they are not concerned that they or their loved ones will get sick from H1N1 flu (21% not very concerned; 15% not at all concerned).

Differences Across Demographics

The study did reveal notable differences across demographic groups:

  • Women are more likely than men to worry about catching Swine Flu (67% vs. 59%).
  • Those with a household income of less than $50K annually express greater concern than do more affluent adults (67% vs. 57%).
  • Adults ages 55+ are more likely to fear that they will contract H1N1 than are those under age 35 (68% v. 57%).
  • Parents of a? child under age 18 are not significantly more likely than those without young children to worry about catching H1N1 (64% vs. 61%).
  • A majority (52%) say that it is likely that they will get vaccinated against the H1N1 virus when? the vaccine becomes available in their area, including a third (33%) who say it is very likely.
  • 47% say that it is not very (17%) or not at all likely (30%) that they will get the Swine-Flu vaccine.
  • Americans are fairly split about the vaccine across demographic groups.

Confidence in Obama

The study also found that despite the delays in the US government’s distibution of the vaccine, two thirds of respondents (65%) feel confident that that the Obama administration is doing everything in its power to ensure the H1N1 Swine Flu vaccine is available in time for flu season.? Just one-third (32%) report that they are not confident in the Obama? administration’s handling of this issue.

African-Americans (91%), Hispanics (76%), adults under age 35 (76%), and those who are unmarried? (74%) are most likely to express confidence in Obama’s handling of the H1N1 vaccine.

Not surprisingly, Democrats are more likely to be confident in the President’s handling of the? epidemic (82%) than are Independents (56%) or Republicans (49%), Ipsos reported.

Hand Sanitizer Sales Skyrocket

In separate research that supports this increased concern, an analysis by The Nielsen Company revealed that Americans are taking a number of steps that they hope will prevent them from catching the flu. Most notable among these is purchasing hand sanitizers, sales of which have skyrocketed in the past six months.

Nielsen said that in the 24 weeks ending October 3, 2009 dollar sales of hand sanitizers were $118.4 million, up 70.5% over the same period a year ago ($69.4 million).


On a unit basis, sales were up 63.1%, while equivalized unit volume (a conversion that equivalizes products of varying sizes) jumped 81.9%. For the 52 weeks ending October 3, 2009 dollar sales grew 22.5% to $179.7 million, while unit sales were up 17.8%. On an equivalized unit volume basis, sales grew 55%.

Sales hit a peak in the four week period ending May 16, 2009 as news of H1N1 outbreaks blanketed the news. This was the highest period in the three years that Nielsen has tracked sales of the product. Though sales did subside during the summer months, Nielsen said they hit their second-highest sales period during the four weeks ending October 3, 2009.

Concerned Parents

Though the Ipsos study noted above found that parents of young children are not significantly more likely than those without them to worry about catching H1N1, online conversations around H1N1 continue to be among the most popular of web topics and are particularly active on parenting and pregnancy sites.

Nielsen’s analysis of that segment shows that on Oct. 25,? 17.5 % of all buzz on parenting/pregnancy blogs focused on the virus.


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