Understanding public perceptions in social media responses to posts about acute severe hepatitis of unknown etiology in Indonesia: a qualitative study

Gregorius Abanit Asa, Nelsensius Klau Fauk, Hailay Abrha Gesesew, Kristen Marie Foley, Belinda Lunnay, Paul Russell Ward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Acute Severe Hepatitis of Unknown Etiology (ASHUE) emerged as a new global outbreak in Indonesia early May 2022, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic. This study aimed to understand public reactions and responses to the emergence of ASHUE Indonesia and to Government-led disease prevention responses. Understanding how the public perceived government-led preventive messaging about the hepatitis outbreak is crucial to controlling viral spread – particularly given the rapid and unforeseen emergence of ASHUE coincided with COVID-19 and public trust in the Indonesian Government to manage health outbreaks was already tenuous. Methods: Social media users’ responses to information disseminated via Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter were analyzed to understand public perceptions about ASHUE outbreak and their attitudes toward Government-led prevention measures. Data were extracted on a daily basis from 1st May 2022 to 30th May 2022 and analyzed manually. We inductively generated the codes, from which we formed a construct and then grouped to identify themes. Results: A total of 137 response comments collected from 3 social medial platforms were analyzed. Of these, 64 were from Facebook, 57 were from YouTube, and 16 were from Twitter. We identified 5 main themes, including (1) disbelief in the existence of the infection; (2) suspicion about a potential new business after COVID-19; (3) suspicion that COVID-19 vaccine(s) are the cause; (4) religion-related fatalism and (5) trust in government measures. Conclusions: The findings advance knowledge about public perceptions, reactions and attitudes towards the emergence of ASHUE and the efficacy of disease countermeasures. The knowledge from this study will provide an understanding of why disease prevention measures might not be followed. It can be used to develop public awareness programs in Indonesia about both the ASHUE and its possible consequences and the available healthcare support.

Original languageEnglish
Article number306
JournalBMC Infectious Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


  • Acute severe hepatitis of unknown etiology
  • Disease prevention
  • Indonesia
  • Social media


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