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In May 2007, Escherichia coli was detected in tap water supplied by a company in North Holland. The company issued advice through mass media to boil tap water before consumption; this advice was lifted six days later. A cross-sectional study was implemented to investigate compliance among residents in this area. Based on postcode, a total of 300 households, chosen randomly from a database of a private company performing internet-based surveys for different marketing purposes, were sent a self-administered questionnaire for this study. The questionnaire contained questions on demographic information, source of information regarding the advice, response to it and personal opinions on the company's reaction and the advice. Ninety-nine (66%) households of the affected area and 90 (60%) households from non-affected areas served by the same company replied to the survey. All respondents knew about the advice. 81.8% of the respondents in the affected area and 5.6% of the non-affected areas reported complying with the advisory. Most respondents from the affected area still used unboiled water to brush teeth, wash salads and wash fruit. There was no difference in compliance between men and women. Using the mass media was proved to be efficient to inform the public and could be used in the future in similar settings. However, more detailed wording of boiling advices should be considered in the future.


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