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Our publications keep professionals working across the public, private, and academic sectors informed on the most important developments and issues in health security and biosecurity.

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When the Next Disease Strikes: How To Communicate (and How Not To)

Tara Kirk Sell
Date posted:
January 16, 2017
Publication type:

Health Security, Vol 15, January 2017

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
Available on Publisher Website
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In an increasingly interconnected world, the potential for infectious diseases to spread internationally is an inescapable fact. The country will face one or more infectious disease health threats over the course of the next administration. Dealing with these threats will require science-based assessment, judicious management, and effective risk communication.

Over the past 8 years, a number of health threats have affected the United States, and public officials have struggled to communicate effectively. During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, some depictions of the threat Ebola posed to the United States caused the public to become much more concerned about the disease than was called for (only 2 people were infected on US soil and both were healthcare workers in direct contact with a patient). During the 2016 Zika threat, we've seen that people have a mixed understanding of the disease and the protective actions they should take, despite months of efforts to inform them. The incoming Administration and Congress will be called on to communicate with the public during similar periods of crisis, potentially ranging from naturally occurring disease outbreaks to intentional bioterrorism, in the future.



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