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Communicating Health Risks – Swine Flu Online

Over a sunday breakfast that included a BLT I opened the papers to read about the outbreaks of Swine Flu. Over the course of the day it was clear that this flu was spreading and discussion online ramped up.

swine flu

swine flu

Swine Flu received its own Hash Tag on Twitter evidence of growing interest and Mashable wrote an excellent post about the best way to stay on top of the issue.

There is no doubt that the introduction of innovative technologies used by authorities such as the CDC  (such as Mashups of health outbreaks,CDC HandWashing ECard , CDC Streaming video  on Youtube and CDC Twitter ) and WHO (WHO Twitter) are a great addition to our health communication toolkit.

On the negative side speculation was also raised in an article in Foreign Policy that technologies such as Twitter may also increase community panic.

Some years ago in a previous role I did some research on the subject of Bird Flu for an article regarding how countries were tackling the issue from a crisis communication perspective.

I will now be following how Swine Flu is communicated to the Australian public.  There is no doubt that getting the balance between informing/preparing and not alarming the public will be crucial.

It will be interesting to see what online communication tools are employed locally.

Following the CDC information is important but having our own local (NSW Health Twitter) updates will be critical if the flu progresses.


CDC has  fully embraced social media tools to disseminate their message.

Uncovered this document from Peter Sandman and Jody Lanard (risk communicators) that discuss pandemic communication. It is quite insightful and explains the WHO phasing from a communication/messaging  perspective.


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