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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(12), 1597; doi:10.3390/ijerph14121597

How Do the First Days Count? A Case Study of Qatar Experience in Emergency Risk Communication during the MERS-CoV Outbreak

1
Ministry of Public Health, Doha 11111, Qatar
2
Division of Policy Translation & Leadership Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 November 2017 / Revised: 1 December 2017 / Accepted: 9 December 2017 / Published: 19 December 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Public Health and Disasters)
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Abstract

This case study is the first to be developed in the Middle East region to document what happened during the response to the 2013 MERS outbreak in Qatar. It provides a description of key epidemiologic events and news released from a prime daily newspaper and main Emergency Risk Communication (ERC) actions that were undertaken by public health authorities. Using the Crisis and Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) theoretical framework, the study analyzes how the performed ERC strategies during the first days of the outbreak might have contributed to the outbreak management. Methods: MERS-CoV related events were chronologically tracked, together with the relevant stories that were published in a major newspaper over the course of three distinct phases of the epidemic. The collected media stories were then assessed against the practiced emergency risk communication (ERC) activities during the same time frame. Results: The Crisis & Emergency Risk Communication (CERC) framework was partially followed during the early days of the MERS-CoV epidemic, which were characterized by overwhelming uncertainty. The SCH’s commitment to a proactive and open risk communication strategy since day one, contributed to creating the SCH’s image as a credible source of information and allowed for the quick initiation of the overall response efforts. Yet, conflicting messages and over reassurance were among the observed pitfalls of the implemented ERC strategy. Conclusion: The adoption of CERC principles can help restore and maintain the credibility of responding agencies. Further work is needed to develop more rigorous and comprehensive research strategies that address sharing of information by mainstream as well as social media for a more accurate assessment of the impact of the ERC strategy. View Full-Text
Keywords: MERS; emergency risk communication; coordination; Qatar; CERC; outbreak MERS; emergency risk communication; coordination; Qatar; CERC; outbreak
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Nour, M.; Alhajri, M.; Farag, E.A.B.A.; Al-Romaihi, H.E.; Al-Thani, M.; Al-Marri, S.; Savoia, E. How Do the First Days Count? A Case Study of Qatar Experience in Emergency Risk Communication during the MERS-CoV Outbreak. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 1597.

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