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Possible risks when announcing the future H5N1 pandemic
One major threat that lies in wait for an attack is the H5N1 flu.
By now the H5N1 virus has caused million of victims among birds in Asia and hundreds of people got infected.
The government wants to prepare people for a possible global pandemic and they are trying to find a method to do that safely.
A risk of spreading the word that bird flu might transmit from human to human is that of causing panic among citizens. And if the government's predictions prove to have been false, it does not want to be accused of causing an unnecessary crises situation.
It may happen for H5N1 to disappear, as swine flu did in 1976, but it also may not and people could be found unprepared for a virus attack.
The government considers that an advised person is most likely to take an active role in protecting itself and others; this is why communicating important news is necessary.
An inappropriate announcement might cause economic damage, panic and even every-man-for-himself chaos, that is why the authorities must early involve the public and help people adjust to the new situation.
Some of the communication goals are: using responsible speculation, sharing dilemmas about what measures to take and not aiming for zero fear.
It have passed a few years since bird flu first appeared and people tend to forget, be careless and do not consider bird flu such an important threaten any more. It is the same thing with the public's opinion on regular flu. They do not care anymore and every year authorities are forced to develop new methods of convincing the people to get a flu shot. But when a new disease appears, like SARS or West Nile virus, everyone panics and asks for a vaccination. So why worry about that thing and not about flu too?
The annual flu is considered to be a risk that kills people but does not bother them so musk, it is pretty familiar and not memorable because many years have passed since the last pandemic. Also it appears every year and mostly affects old people. So, it is not easy at all to get people to really care about influenza.
Luckily for us, the virus did not mutate yet to a more aggressive form and until then health authorities can develop a strategy of preparing people for a global pandemic in case the virus will be able to transmit from human to human.
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