There has been a health outbreak! Choose an at-risk population, an epidemic, and respond to the following objectives from the CDC Epidemic Intelligence Service. You are to write a 2- 3 page paper, in APA format, include at least 5 references, and address the objectives below. You will include the primary NCHEC Area of Responsibility and Competency you are addressing in this assignment as a title on the first page of your document. What is the epidemic, who does it adversely affect, what is the first response to this epidemic, etc.
After you complete the paper, create a 1-page outbreak communication flyer, radio announcement, commercial transcript, etc. to release to the public (this is the presentation portion and is a separate submission) (follow the CDC and WHO outline for help, located in the Module 5 Resources).
Possible Epidemics in the US:
- Lung injury associated with e-cigarette use or vaping
- Hepatitis A
Possible Epidemics Outside the US:
- Typhoid fever (drug-resistant)
At the start of an investigation, you will need to assess the situation (11). The following steps will help you perform this task quickly:
- Identify affected or potentially affected populations (i.e., target audiences). Ask yourself, “Who is most at risk by the outbreak or public health threat?” “What populations are most vulnerable or at the highest risk and need to be reached first?”
- Identify behavioral factors that might place persons at risk. Ask yourself, “Are behavioral factors placing persons at risk?” If so, “What are they?” Can you recommend actions that persons and healthcare providers can take to confront these behavioral factors and thus reduce their risk (e.g., get vaccinated or wash their hands frequently)? If the risk is unknown, can you provide information to the public and media about what is being done in the investigation to identify what places persons at risk?
- Identify partners who might be able to reach affected persons or populations. In an ideal situation, strong relationships will exist. However, if such relationships do not yet exist, quickly identify what relationships are crucial for containing and stopping the outbreak. Ask yourself, “Are healthcare providers available who might reach the affected persons or populations quickly?” “Who are the community leaders who can help reach the affected persons or populations?” “Will the public look to specific partners or persons for advice or direction (e.g., religious leaders or local thought leaders)?” Decide who should talk with those influential persons and what the timing should be for doing so.
- Identify perceptions in the community that might affect communications. Listen to community members. Work to get a better understanding of how local authorities, affected persons, and community leaders perceive the situation (7). Listen to concerns, critiques, and fears. When possible, have a discussion before issuing directives. Gain an understanding of what community members might know and believe about the illness and potential cause. Also work to understand the language, culture, and socioeconomic factors in the community that should be considered. Use this information to refine your communication efforts.
- Tailor health-related recommendations or guidance and ensure that it is written in plain language to be more easily adopted or adhered to by the affected population and public health or healthcare entities.
- Build strong relationships with key persons in the community who can help you contain or stop the outbreak and can provide ongoing insights.
- Ensure that messages to the media and public resonate. The communications team will want to identify reliable information sources that can provide an ongoing assessment of current perceptions in the community (e.g., social media monitoring) (12). When you have this feedback loop in place, work to integrate the findings into ongoing decision making.
Communication Resources and Tools Often Used for Outbreak Responses
- Internet site. The response effort might need an Internet site to convey relevant and rapidly changing information about the outbreak. The site should be the main repository of scientific facts, data, and resources. All other communications should be based on the content of that site. Key information for the site might include the following:
- Data or case counts;
- Maps of the affected area;
- Guidance for affected populations, the public, travelers to or from the region, and healthcare providers who are caring for the affected persons;
- A section highlighting the newest information; and
- A multimedia section for the media and the general public.
- Call center. The response effort might benefit from having a call center equipped to answer inquiries from the affected population, the worried well, and healthcare providers seeking information. Guidance is available for entities that are establishing a call center during an outbreak response.
- Social media messages. Create social media messages from Internet site content. Communications staff should monitor social media regularly to identify and dispel myths and misperceptions.
- Clinician outreach resources. The response might require substantial communications with healthcare providers. Webinars, conference calls with partner organizations, videos for online clinical communities, or other forums might be considered to allow healthcare providers to access up-to-date information, ask questions, and obtain advice from other clinicians associated with the response.
- Digital press kit for the news media. A digital press kit with photos, videos, quotations from spokespersons, the latest data or information (e.g., graphics, charts, or maps), and information about how to obtain an interview is always helpful for reporters during an outbreak investigation.
- Tailor communication resources. The response might require translation for specific audiences, and communication materials might need to be tailored for reaching affected populations. Some responses use photo novellas, simple line art, text messaging, or community events to convey important information for specific audiences.
What to Include When Developing Outbreak-Related Messages
- Expression of empathy.
- What’s known and a call for action, including Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?
- What’s known and what’s not known, and how answers will be obtained for what’s not yet known
- Explanations of what public health actions are being taken and why.
- A statement of commitment.
- When additional information will be provided.
- Where to find more information in the meantime.