Ready with a Playbook
It appears public officials have already taken the biggest step toward preventing panic over the swine flu: being ready with a playbook. When a crisis hits, there's no substitute for preparation. If you haven't prepared mentally and physically for emergencies through practice and drills, your performance will suffer when it really counts. Fortunately, leaders in the U.S. - and those internationally - learned from the SARS and avian flu scares in recent years. Response so far to the swine flu, from monitoring new cases to moving critical medical supplies to strategic locations, has been well coordinated. For that we can all be grateful.
The response from U.S. officials has been serious and prompt but also appropriately measured. They'll need to keep issuing disciplined and frequent communications with the public. The virus is near pandemic levels, and that's clearly a concern. At the same time, the frantic level of media coverage also has the potential to spur panic. Without frequent, official updates, rumors and worry will go unchecked. As more information about the actual extent and seriousness of the virus becomes available, officials will need to exercise sound judgment that draws on input from a wide variety of health and policy experts. Whether things get better or worse, the best strategy is to tell the truth, put it in context and convey the next steps. That's what has been done so far - and it remains the right formula for leading through this challenge.
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