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Public engagement with emerging infectious disease: the case of MRSA in Britain.

Joffe, H; Washer, P; Solberg, C; (2011) Public engagement with emerging infectious disease: the case of MRSA in Britain. Psychol Health , 26 (6) 667 - 683. 10.1080/08870441003763238.

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As a route to providing a framework for elucidating the content of public thinking concerning emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases (EID), this article examines public engagement with methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). It explores how British lay publics represent MRSA utilising a social representations framework. For this group, MRSA is associated primarily with dirty National Health Service (NHS) hospitals that have been neglected due to management culture having superseded the matron culture that dominated the putative golden age of the NHS. Furthermore, MRSA represents a transgression of the purpose of a hospital as a clean and curative institution. While this widely shared picture is accompanied by a strong sense of general concern, the respondents associate contracting MRSA with other identities, such as hospitalised, young and old people. These associations are linked to feelings of personal invulnerability. There is also blame of foreigners--especially cleaners and nurses--for MRSA's spread. Thus, the data corroborate a key pattern of response found in relation to myriad EID--that of othering. However, the identities associated with contracting MRSA are mutable; therefore, the threat cannot be distanced unequivocally. Beyond developing an understanding of the relationship between epidemics and identities, this article proposes a fitting theory with which to explore EID-related public thinking.

Type: Article
Title: Public engagement with emerging infectious disease: the case of MRSA in Britain.
Location: England
DOI: 10.1080/08870441003763238
Language: English
Keywords: Adult, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Attitude to Health, Communicable Diseases, Emerging, Cross Infection, Female, Hospitals, Public, Humans, London, Male, Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus, Middle Aged, Models, Psychological, State Medicine
UCL classification: UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Science and Technology Studies
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/91395
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