Communications implications of the new flu pandemic

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years. As a demonstration of how fast the world...

On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years. As a demonstration of how fast the world can change in terms of public health – this virus was only discovered to exist in April. In addition, this flu virus is the first of the century, and as noted by WHO: “[N]o previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning.” It is also the first time this kind of flu virus has circulated among humans.

Fortunately, the lethality of this pandemic is not as pronounced as avian flu, which, in 2006 was the pandemic for which all began to prepare – including businesses. However, it is still uncertain how virulent or lethal this virus might become in the future. But it does serve as a reminder that pandemic planning in 2006 involved communications as it existed then and those old communications plans from three years ago, need to be dusted off.

A primary pillar of public health defense in a time of pandemic is “social distancing.” Communications tools that exist today that didn’t then are Yammr, Twitter, Wikis, and a host of other new media that allow heightened communications among closed groups. There is also a need to ensure that employees are using RSS Feeds and have set up aggregators to pull in news as it happens from select sources. Facebook’s new “vanity URL” offering makes it an excellent time to set up a Facebook brand or product-specific page that will allow a company to keep in close contact with loyal customers. This is a pandemic of firsts.

Mark Senak, SVP, Fleishman-Hillard, and author of the Eye on FDA blog.

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