Tuesday, August 16, 2016

South Florida battling Zika fears

It may not be at the top of the news every day, the Zika virus is becoming a major concern across the United States, especially in New York and Florida. For months there were no reported cases of Zika being spread in the U.S. All the known cases were brought into the country.
Those days are over. At last count, more than 25 people have contracted the virus in Miami, FL alone,and government health officials are amping up their warnings, and not just to pregnant women.

Florida Governor Rick Scott is telling folks the “area of concern”is shrinking, that there’s only one neighborhood infected. Still, with more cases being diagnosed week after week, people are growing more concerned … and it doesn’t seem like they’re getting answers.

The CDC has another story, though, one that includes more elements of prevention and stricter precautions. According to CDC spokesmen, travel advisories are still in effect, and people, especially pregnant women, are expected to steer clear.

Local officials in the impacted areas of Miami are recommending students slather on the repellent and come to school in long sleeves.

The public relations optics in this scenario is mixed up,confusing. Some officials are saying take drastic measures. Others say there’s no big deal, just be relatively careful. Both of these narratives skew against the optics coming out of places where massive infections are taking place, like Puerto Rico and several South American countries.

When dealing with a public health issue, cooperative optics and messaging is vital to keep people calm and informed. Mixed messages bring confusion, and confusion gives birth to fear … which can quickly rage out of control. This is a situation in which active and proper communication is vital.All parties must stay on message and work to deliver actionable information.

The alternative to this is people deciding what to do in small groups … which can quickly grow into larger groups. Uninformed, frightened large groups don’t need much to transform them into a mob. If officials can’t get on the same page, and fast, things could quickly spiral out of control.

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

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