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Published in Public Health (2006) 120, 15–19.


In June 2003, Taiwan introduced a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) telephone hotline service to provide concerned callers with rapid access to information, advice and appropriate referral where necessary. This paper reports an evaluation of the knowledge, attitude, practices and sources of information relating to SARS among physicians who staffed the SARS fever hotline service. A retrospective survey was conducted using a self-administered postal questionnaire. Participants were physicians who staffed a SARS hotline during the SARS epidemic in Taipei, Taiwan from June 1 to 10, 2003. A response rate of 83% was obtained. All respondents knew the causative agent of SARS, and knowledge regarding SARS features and preventive practices was good. However, only 54% of respondents knew the incubation period of SARS. Hospital guidelines and news media were the major information sources. In responding to two case scenarios most physicians were likely to triage callers at high risk of SARS appropriately, but not callers at low risk. Less than half of all respondents answered both scenarios correctly. The results obtained suggest that knowledge of SARS was generally good although obtained from both medical and non-medical sources. Specific knowledge was however lacking in certain areas and this affected the ability to appropriately triage callers. Standardized education and assessment of prior knowledge of SARS could improve the ability of physicians to triage callers in future outbreaks.

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