Background: Voluntary home quarantine of cases and close contacts was the main non-pharmaceutical intervention used to limit transmission of pandemic (H1N1) 2009 influenza (pH1N1) in the initial response to the outbreak of the disease in Australia. The effectiveness of voluntary quarantine logically depends on affected families having a clear understanding of what they are being asked to do. Information may come from many sources, including the media, health officials, family and friends, schools, and health professionals. We report the extent to which families who entered home quarantine received and used information on what they were supposed to do. Specifically, we outline their sources of information; the perceived usefulness of each source; and associations between understanding of recommendations and compliance.
Methods: Cross-sectional survey administered via the internet and computer assisted telephone interview to families whose school children were recommended to go into home quarantine because they were diagnosed with H1N1 or were a close contact of a case. The sample included 314 of 1157 potentially eligible households (27% response rate) from 33 schools in metropolitan Melbourne. Adjusting for clustering within schools, we describe self-reported 'understanding of what they were meant to do during the quarantine period'; source of information (e.g. health department) and usefulness of information. Using logistic regression we examine whether compliance with quarantine recommendations was associated with understanding and the type of information source used.
Results: Ninety per cent understood what they were meant to do during the quarantine period with levels of understanding higher in households with cases (98%, 95% CI 93%-99% vs 88%, 95% CI 84%-91%, P = 0.006). Over 87% of parents received information about quarantine from the school, 63% from the health department and 44% from the media. 53% of households were fully compliant and there was increased compliance in households that reported that they understood what they were meant to do (Odds Ratio 2.27, 95% CI 1.35-3.80).
Conclusions: It is critical that public health officials work closely with other government departments and media to provide clear, consistent and simple information about what to do during quarantine as high levels of understanding will maximise compliance in the quarantined population.