NHS Lothian 'dispelling myths' around legionnaires' disease outbreak

NHS Lothian's director of comms is focusing on dispelling myths around the legionnaires' disease outbreak that has hit Edinburgh.

Edinburgh: scene of legionnaires' disease outbreak
Edinburgh: scene of legionnaires' disease outbreak
The number of confirmed and suspected cases of legionnaires' disease in Edinburgh rose to 61 yesterday, with one death to date.

NHS Lothian director of comms Stuart Wilson spoke to PRWeek about the challenges facing his five-strong team as it has dealt with comms around the outbreak since Sunday.

He said: ‘We’ve been addressing myths – there is lots of public fear about it being contagious and contracted through drinking water. We’ve focused on the facts.

‘What we’re asking people to do is get a sense of the symptoms, so that we can get worried well people away from health facilities.’

Wilson said that the team is using a mixture of traditional media, social media and leafleting to communicate with people in Edinburgh about the disease. The hospital is using Twitter to hold two-way conversations to address concerns from members of the public.

35,000 leaflets have been delivered around the affected areas of the city.

NHS Lothian has also provided Dr Duncan McCormick for interviews with broadcast media such as Daybreak and BBC News 24, to ‘put out positive messages’.

Wilson added that they had had ‘a couple of issues’ with one Scottish national newspaper. ‘It felt that our response wasn’t quick enough. But the Cabinet Secretary for Health praised our comms, and we had something out to the media in one-and-a-half hours after the first outbreak.’

Wilson joined NHS Lothian last year after working as the Church of Scotland's head of comms.

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