Urgent Evoke

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LEARN9 - Mission 9: Coming to Terms With Uncertainty

I picked "Coming to terms with uncertainty" since sharing uncertain information is the root for every crisis communication. The information is uncertain because it's not possible to see an exact outcome within a short span of time. Which is why it is very important to decide on the information you want to deliver to others. It's your responsibility to share valuable and correct information (even if they're uncertain) in order to prevent confusion and panic. This blog post covers 4 different aspects of gathering and sharing uncertain information: Conflicting and uncertain information, 3 different uses of information in an outbreak, news in a pandemic, mathematical modeling results.

It is very important to understand that there's always uncertainty in information regarding pandemic outbreaks. Unless science can tell you about the exact development of a disease, every information includes uncertainty of how the virus might develop in the future. It is important to understand that uncertainty exists and it's not a bad thing to share. It is also important to label information as uncertain instead of seeing it as a fact and share false information with the public.

Information have 3 different uses in case of a pandemic outbreak:
1. The information is important for scientists to advance the science. Scientists are responsible for not making any strong statements until they know, or think they know, what’s going on.
2. It’s important for public health workers, who also base their work on the science, to make a response. It is important to have a guilty until proven innocent standard. Action has to be taken before all the evidence is in. The reasons are obvious: There are delays in getting samples to labs, delays in getting results, delays in getting enough data/samples to be certain.
3. Finally, there is the work of public health communication. If first responders want to have some hope of containing an outbreak, they will have to respond to false alarms.

Sharing news during a pandemic outbreak can trigger all sorts of damage, economic and otherwise. Announcements to the public must be cautious and must emphasize the possibility that things are better than they seem, given at the same time that actions must reflect the possibility that they're worse than they seem.

In order to reduce uncertainty mathematical models can be used. What mathematical models to date have done is to model how transmission of the virus might be blocked, examining how changes in contact patterns or changes in the course of the infection would alter the epidemic.

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