UCL Energy Institute


Communicating the risks of a new, emerging pathogen: The case of Cryptococcus gattii


1 January 2008

The news media are an important channel for communicating public health messages, providing important information about geographic extent, symptoms, and precautionary measures. This function may be particularly important in the case of new and emerging infectious diseases, which are unfamiliar to both the public and health professionals. We conducted a content analysis of the coverage in six Canadian newspapers of two .emerging infectious pathogens in British Columbia (BC), West Nile virus and Cryptococcus gattii (C. gattii), between 2001 and 2006. C. gattii was first identified in the Canadian Pacific Northwest in 1999, having previously been restricted to tropical and subtropical areas. By summer 2006, C. gattii had killed at least eight people and was responsible for over 150 hospitalizations in the province of BC, as well as significant morbidity and mortality among companion animals. West Nile virus reached Canada in 2001 and has since caused significant morbidity and mortality. It has not, to date, reached BC. Despite the much higher incidence of disease and death caused by C. gattii in BC, West Nile virus received five times more news coverage in the British Columbian and national newspapers examined. Surprisingly, the local newspaper closest to the center of the British Columbia C. gattii outbreak had a much lower proportion of coverage of the disease than other papers in the province. The article discusses possible explanations for these findings, and the implications for public health communication.

Communicating the risks of a new, emerging pathogen: The case of Cryptococcus gattii. RISK ANAL, 28 (2) 373 - 386. 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2008.01024.x

Nicol, AM; Hurrell, C; McDowall, W; Bartlett, K; Elmieh, N; (2008)