Influenza and influenza-like syndromes: the subjects' beliefs, the attitude to prevention and treatment, and the impact in Italian general population

Multidiscip Respir Med. 2018 Mar 1

Authors: Dal Negro RW, Zanasi A, Turco P, Povero M.



Influenza and influenza-like syndromes (I-LSs) are infectious diseases occurring on a seasonal basis which can lead to upper (URTI) and lower respiratory tract illness (LRTI) of different severity. The approach to these disorders is unfortunately not uniform. Aim of the study was to investigate real-life people beliefs, the attitude to their prevention and treatment, and their impact in general population.


A cross-sectional survey via Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) was carried out using a specific questionnaire investigating influenza episode rates, subjects behavior in case of influenza and I-LSs, and prescribed therapy.


1,202 subjects completed the questionnaire: median age was 46, 49% male, 20% active smokers. 57% of respondents experienced at least one episode of influenza or I-LS in the previous 12 months; episodes were usually home-managed, shorter than 2 weeks and more frequent in fall and winter (73% of the total). GP resulted the first health-care option (56%); almost 3% of respondents referred to the emergency room, and hospitalization occurred in 1%. Mucolytics resulted the most prescribed drugs (55%) followed by antibiotics and aerosol therapy (37-38%). Even if more than 70% of subjects considered vaccination essential, only 14% received influenza vaccination yearly and almost 60% had never received vaccination. Approximately 36% of respondents regarded homeopathy (namely Oscillococcinum) as an helpful alternative because of perceived as safer.


Seasonal prevalence of I-LSs and influenza partially overlap. As virus identification is not a common procedure in daily practice, only a clinical discrimination is possible. Antibiotic prescription is still too high and largely inappropriate. Influenza vaccination is strongly encouraged, but different strategies are also used. Other approaches are receiving increasing attention in general population, and subjects' willingness to spend out-of-pocket for effective remedies is also increasing. The discrepancy between subjects' beliefs and health care actions likely reflects the insufficiency of institutional preventive strategies. In general, the approach to influenza and I-LSs appear variable and highly dependent of subjects' and their GPs' cultural beliefs.


Influenza; Influenza-like syndromes; Prescribing attitude; Subjects’ beliefs; Survey in general population


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