Understanding Public Perceptions of Bioterrorism to Inform Risk Communication

This study examines the baseline public comprehension and perceptions of bioterrorism, as well as the underpinning, trusted information sources in the Republic of Serbia. Results demonstrate overall poor understanding of bioterrorism and a notable lack of distinction between bioterrorism and infectious agents in general.

Interestingly, the idea that bioterrorism agents are an intentional laboratory product of genetic engineering and synthetic biology approaches is significantly present among the surveyed population, but with contradicting views on whether such actions would be malicious or well-intended. Nearly 60% of the study respondents believed that acquisition of bioterrorism agents is very or moderately easy, while 82.4% considered that these agents are, in addition to being present in their natural environments, created or modified in laboratories.

These ideas, coupled with substantial mistrust in government institutions and news media, could inflict serious consequences and, therefore, should be taken into consideration when designing prevention and preparedness strategies, as well as interventions through knowledge communication.

Una Radovanović Nenadić and Smilja Teodorović. Public Understanding, Perceptions, and Information Sources about Bioterrorism: Pilot Study from the Republic of Serbia Health Security. Published: February 17, 2020.

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