Avian influenza (AI) or “bird flu” could be the next great global health threat. Although considered uncommon, there are instances of a certain strain (H5N1) of the virus transmitting to humans. Since 2003 approximately 420 people have been infected 257 have died due to severe respiratory illness contracted through close contact with AI infected birds. Public health experts are concerned the virus may mutate into a communicable disease among humans, triggering an influenza pandemic. As a result, millions of people could be infected, crippling economies and social services resources.
Models developed at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health demonstrate the possibility to detect an influenza outbreak at its earliest stage and deploy resources to stop it. In response to this potential outbreak, the School’s Center for Communication Programs (CCP) provides expertise on strategic AI health communications focusing on prevention measures, preparedness, containment, and crisis management of an influenza outbreak.
The Global Program on Avian and Pandemic Influenza (A&PI) at CCP uses a health communication perspective to promote preparedness, prevention, and personal hygiene behaviors to curb animal-animal, animal-human, human-human transmission of the most recent strain of avian influenza, known as H5N1. These approaches are based on CCP’s behavior and social change frameworks which improve program design and achieve maximum impact. CCP works in over a dozen countries across Asia, Eurasia, Near East, Africa and the Americas to develop A&PI communication strategies for key audiences that include policy-makers, media personnel, health professionals, the poultry industry, households in contact with live poultry stock, and the public at-large.
CCP partners with governments, donors, NGOs and UN agencies to strengthen A&PI communications preparedness and response. CCP assists in harmonizing consistent messages across all partners to increase awareness about the potential pandemic. In this framework, CCP focuses on:
CCP undertakes various approaches for A&PI preparedness and response, which include:
CCP’s Global Program on Avian and Pandemic Influenza Brochure is available for more information.