Messaging on Emerging Infectious Diseases

Stylized words,

Infectious diseases are a danger to all people, no matter their age, gender, lifestyle, ethnic background, or economic status. These infections impose a huge cost on society. Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) principles can help us—as public health communicators—explain risks and recommendations to affected populations.

In the years following World War II, it seemed people were winning the war against infections. We learned that antibiotics could treat life-threatening bacterial infections and vaccines could prevent disabling childhood diseases. However, this hopefulness was premature; some diseases have become resistant to antibiotics and new infections continue to emerge.

  • In 2009, the emergence of H1N1 made the threat of a global pandemic a very real possibility.
  • In 2013, the largest epidemic of Ebola virus disease in history began primarily in three West African countries and spread across local and international borders.
  • In February 2016, the World Health Organization declared an outbreak of Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Since it is never certain when or where new diseases will arise, we must always be prepared. Our job as public health and crisis communicators is to provide people the information they need during an outbreak of infectious disease, so we can effectively support the public, our colleagues, and the organizations offering help during an emergency.

For more information on CERC visit our website and check out the CERC manual. You can also read previous CERC Corners.

Have you used CERC in your work? To share your CERC stories, e-mail Your stories may appear in future CERC Corners.

Page last reviewed: March 23, 2017 (archived document)