Zika spread causing PR problems for CDC

Well, it had to happen, and now it has. Zika has been passed – in the United States – from a man with no discernible symptoms of the disease. When the mysterious “new” disease was discernible and preventable, when it was only being spread by people from other places, and when we knew how to “see” it and make arrangements to deal with it the monster could be caged.

Now the monster is out of the cage, and we still don’t know what it is, and what, if anything, we can or should do about it. We know the disease is spread, for the most part, either by mosquitoes or by sexual contact. The illness can be mild, in fact, it is mild in most cases. But a case of Zika during pregnancy can lead to massive problems and severe birth defects.

Until now, doctors have said the spread of the disease from an asymptomatic patient is extremely rare. It may still be, comparatively, but it’s happening. And when the unknown is added to any conversation or information about a disease that could cause birth defects, panic is not often far behind.

This reality creates a major public relations crisis for the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention as well as hospitals and medical facilities anywhere there has been a Zika case diagnosed.

When people know it COULD happen but they don’t know HOW or WHY, these questions often give way to fear, insecurity and, eventually, blind panic. The CDC needs to get well ahead of the news narrative on this. They need to be ahead of the game, having a message any and every time they’re asked a question about this by the media or a concerned citizen.

And that message must go beyond the boilerplate stuff about preventing mosquitoes and trying not to get bit. It’s beyond that now. People who didn’t even realize they are sick are spreading the disease to people who had no idea they needed to be careful. This is B-movie horror stuff in front page headlines. Authorities need to get a handle on the message, not to contain the truth, but to help people understand and act in an informed manner. Anything less and this could get out of hand quickly.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder, President and CEO of New York-based 5W Public Relations. He has overseen the company's rapid growth and expansion to the Inc. 500 list, as well as provided counsel to hundreds of companies, including members of the Fortune 500, Inc. 500 and Forbes 400. His work spans global interests, corporate entities, high-profile individuals, regional business entities, government agencies and academic institutions - both on routine public relations matters and extremely sensitive issues. One of the foremost public relations experts in the U.S., Torossian is known for his aggressive, results-focused orientation, as well as his close working relationships with members of the media, influencers, decision makers, politicians and celebrities. At 5W Public Relations, Torossian's client experience has included programs for Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Anheuser-Busch, Barnes & Noble, Cantor Fitzgerald, IHOP, McDonald's, Evian, EDS, VeriSign, XM Radio, Seagram's, The Loews Regency, Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment, Marriott Hotels, Vail Resorts, Pamela Anderson, Snoop Dogg, the Government of Israel, and others. Referred to by The New York Post as a "publicity guru," by Fox News as a "high-powered PR CEO," by Tyra Banks as a "crisis management guru," and by CNN as "a leading PR expert," Torossian is regularly featured in and quoted by the media, including by CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times, and others. CBS National News said "Ronn Torossian knows spin," and a New York Times feature story on Torossian referred to him as "The consummate hard-driving, scrappy NY publicist." Earlier in his career, Torossian was a Vice President/Group Director for one of The InterPublic Group's (IPG) largest PR agencies, where he was responsible for significant client growth and successful client programs, including work for Clinique, Fox News Channel, DHL, Hard Rock Café and others. A resident of Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Torossian was named to the Advertising Age "40 Under 40" list, PR Week's "40 Under 40" List, is a regular lecturer at universities and conferences, a member of Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of numerous non-profit organizations.