Representations of swine flu: Perspectives from a Malaysian pig farm

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Abstract

Novel influenza viruses are seen, internationally, as posing considerable health challenges, but public responses to such viruses are often rooted in cultural representations of disease and risk. However, little research has been conducted in locations associated with the origin of a pandemic. We examined representations and risk perceptions associated with swine flu amongst 120 Malaysian pig farmers. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents felt at particular risk of infection, two-thirds were somewhat or very concerned about being infected. Those respondents who were the most anxious believed particular societal "out-groups" (homosexuals, the homeless and prostitutes) to be at higher infection risk. Although few (4%) reported direct discrimination, 46% claimed friends had avoided them since the swine flu outbreak. Findings are discussed in the context of evolutionary, social representations and terror management theories of response to pandemic threat.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-490
Number of pages14
JournalPublic Understanding of Science
Volume20
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011

Keywords

  • evolutionary psychology
  • social representations
  • swine flu
  • terror management theory

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