The influenza A (H5N1) virus is currently the focus of the worlds attention and, while avian flu viruses are not known to infect humans, there have been recent cases where the H5N1 has spread from human to human (Butler 2006; Ungchusak et al. 2005; Wulandari and Lyn 2006). Concern about a possible pandemic is based on a number of factors including the potential of the virus to be transmitted from migratory birds to domestic poultry; the absence of demonstrated effective treatment options or an available vaccine; and lack of collaboration in the planning of responses between neighbouring countries. This research project is part of a larger project that was developed to gain an understanding of the knowledge and perceptions of Australians about bird flu, to develop and pretest messages (public service ads) that the Australian government could use in the event of a pandemic, and to develop broader communication strategies to produce effective communications and to respond to misinformation that is expected to appear in the public arena. Communication in the Australian media regarding a potential avian influenza pandemic, hereafter referred to as bird flu, can serve to accurately and effectively inform the public OR misinform and contribute to unnecessary public panic and subsequent undesirable responses. The Australian government has time to develop communication strategies and specific messages that can effectively convey desired information at different stages of the anticipated pandemic. Communication strategies (including specific messages, media vehicles, spokespeople and images targeted at different audiences) have been developed and pre-tested for use by government, medical authorities, NGOs and other relevant organisations in an attempt to increase the publics understanding of the risk. Such strategies will minimise fear, refute misinformation that the public may encounter (e.g., from co-workers or media sources) and enhance the likelihood of the public taking the recommended preventive and remedial actions should these become necessary.
Available at: http://works.bepress.com/sjones/155/