H7N9 Influenza Messaging via Twitter

During the first week of April, right as H7N9 influenza was making waves in a number of local, state, federal and international health authorities, the World Health Organization kicked their Twitter account into high gear and started posting updates and risk communication messages about the virus.

Most of the messaging was quite good, but a series of tweets tying the prevention of H7N9 to standard food safety messages really rubbed me the wrong way. I even wrote a blog post about it!

I think now, after a week or so, it’s only fair that I follow up on the situation. See how much they value and integrate good risk communication practices. And what I’ve found I’m very impressed with.

The tweets on H7N9 have been confined to updates like this:

Links to more information, including risk messaging like this:

Even messages cautioning a wait-and-see approach, which is highly recommended at this stage in the disease outbreak:

And then they back that approach with real action. In between H7N9 posts (or more correctly, they’re posting on H7N9 in between other posts), they’ve got information on World Health Day and cutting salt out of your diet and information about other diseases:

But the tweet that’s impressed me the most is this one:

If you’re a regular reader, you probably saw this recent post about communicating risk via Twitter and how the City of Hoboken, NJ did it right during a recent spate of water main breaks. Well, now it looks like the World Health Organization has started using this cutting edge trick, too.

And they continue to learn and interact. As some of your know, I run a monthly Twitterchat around issues of public health and social media (#sm4ph). This week was our April chat, and one of their social media staff stopped by to discuss the use of Twitter by WHO for H7N9 with the community.

In sum, hats off to WHO for a top-notch online campaign thus far. I called them out previously, and the response is exactly what I hoped for.

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