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Issues in Communicating the Avian Influenza Pandemic

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National Institutes of Health

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  1. Influenza already has such a strong presence within society
  2. The public's lack of full attention to preventive influenza behaviors is a result of the comfort zone they have developed with the flu
  3. This media would be effective if its theoretical messages were successful

The threat of avian influenza is one that differs significantly from the annual dose of flu we experience, and the occurrence of an influenza pandemic would be devastating if the public relied only on its current typical flu attitudes and practices. Avian influenza presents an enormous challenge to all public health and medical fields, but perhaps one of its greatest difficulties will be communicating information to the public in a manner that yields an effective and controlled response. Influenza has a long and rather involved social history attached to it, yet despite its ever-changing viral and social effect, the flu has developed a rather recalcitrant connotation, so that the general public views the flu as a chronic and lackluster affair. Therefore, the issue that health communicators must overcome is the gap between the public's understanding of influenza, and the reality of the behaviors and perceptions necessary to handle the avian flu pandemic.

[...] The risk of the avian flu pandemic requires delicate communication in order to channel a constructive public response. Yet before health communication can address the avian flu, it must first make an effort to dispel the misconceptions that the public currently connect to influenza. Health communication is the lynchpin that holds public attitudes and actions together with the advisories of the public health field. Avian influenza will challenge the scope of health communication to reach people perceptions on an innovative level without igniting a pandemic of fear parallel to the pandemic itself. [...]

[...] Barriers to influenza immunization in a low-income urban population. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 21-25. Gostin, Lawrence O. (2004). Pandemic influenza: Public health preparedness for the next global health emergency. Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics, Winter, 565-573. Grant, Vincent et. al. (2001). Factors influencing childhood influenza immunization. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 168(1), 39-41. Sandman, Peter M. and Lanard, Jody. [...]

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