Conflict Management Life Cycle

Public relations professionals take on many tasks through their position. One essential part of their position is managing conflict and handling crisis situations. According to the Think Public Relations textbook, the conflict management life cycle depicts the steps a public relations professional would take to handle a crisis. The four steps of the cycle are the proactive phase, strategic phase, reactive phase, and recovery phase. When dealing with any crisis they will go through the whole cycle, and then back to the beginning again.

Zika Virus

The first epidemic caused by mosquitoes was malaria. Our current epidemic caused by mosquitoes is the Zika virus.

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947, and the first diagnosed human case in 1952 (Overview, 2016). The most common places where the virus are contracted is Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. The first confirmed case of the Zika virus in the United States occurred in Hawaii in January of 2016 (WHO Director, 2016). At this point efforts began to find funding to research the Zika virus. In July of 2016, the first local spread of the virus was confirmed in the U.S (Stamm & Cameron, 2016).

As of now, there is no vaccine or medication for treating the Zika virus. The virus can be spread in several ways. It can be spread through mosquito bite, pregnancy, sex, and blood transfusions (Overview, 2016). Some common side effects of the virus are fever, rash, joint pain, and headache; however, not all who are infected suffer from these (Phillips, 2016). If a pregnant woman passes the virus onto her baby, the baby may be born with birth defects, which include but are not limited to brain defects, microcephaly, eye and hearing defects, and impaired growth (Overview, 2016).

As of September 28, 2016 there are 3,625 cases of the Zika virus on the continental U.S (Stamm & Cameron, 2016). Here is an infographic of the states and number of confirmed Zika cases in the each of those states.

Proactive Phase

In the case of the Zika virus the WHO, CDC, and Obama administration tried to combat the incident before it became a crisis.

On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency (Zika virus, 2016). This was done because of the recent spread and geographical distribution of the virus. “The lack of vaccines and rapid and reliable diagnostic tests, and the absence of a population immunity in newly affected countries were cited as further causes for concern (WHO Director, 2016, para. 5).”

Just a few days later, the Obama administration requested $1.9 billion in emergency funds from Congress to fight Zika (Our Response, n.d). This request was submitted on February 8, 2016 but congress did not grant any emergency funds until April, and it was less than half of what the Obama administration had requested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also took initiatives to address the Zika virus. Their main tactic was to raise awareness of the virus. They informed the public of how the virus can be spread. Social media was a tool used to inform the public of everything they need to know about Zika. They also prepared a Zika Communication Planning Guide for States, essentially this guide explains to the health officials and government officials how to inform the public once Zika has been found in their state (What CDC, 2016).

However, despite all of the matters taken to combat the crisis, it could not be stopped. It was not possible to learn enough about the virus to stop it before it became a crisis. There were not enough funds or manpower allotted to the research and understanding of the virus. They still are unable to stop the spread and effects of the virus.

Strategic Phase

The Zika virus is one that researchers are only beginning to understand. To address this crisis, the CDC has taken major action. One of their main communication tactics includes acknowledging what they know, don’t know, and what they are doing to find out more (Overview, 2016).

On the CDC’s website they have a page dedicated to “What CDC is doing”. This describes that CDC has been tracking the spread of the virus internationally and throughout the United States. In order to do this, they have staff working in collaboration with response partners to exchange information about the outbreak. They have trained disease detectives and healthcare providers on how to identify and report Zika. They provide laboratories with samples for diagnostic testing of Zika. They have advised travelers on how to try to protect themselves if they are traveling in a place where Zika is present.

The CDC is monitoring the cases to help improve understanding of how the virus works and spreads. They are studying the links between Zika and birth defects. An essential part of what they are doing is educating the public on the Zika virus. They have made a great use of social media, mainly twitter and Facebook, to inform the public of what they should know about the virus.

Reactive Phase

The White House announced in April of 2016 that they would take $510 million of the funds for Ebola and transfer them to the Zika epidemic, they would also repurpose $79 million from other funds and put that towards Zika (Mole, 2016). In the article written by Mole, it explained that even with a total of $589 million funds put towards fighting Zika, health officials worried this would not be enough. All of this money had to go towards several extensive initiatives.

The CDC wanted the funds for several different objectives. They would be used to accelerate vaccine research. They were needed to allow for the surveillance and control of mosquitoes. The funds would help to educate the public about the disease and improve health services for the disease. The funds would also be allocated to help Zika affected countries. However, being that the original proposal was $1.9 billion and they only received $589 million not all of the intended proposal could be achieved. The money mainly went towards trying to develop diagnostics and a vaccine and mosquito surveillance.

The health officials and the administration were not wrong when they argued that they would need more money to fight the Zika virus. The funding in April was not enough to develop any vaccine, medication, or cure. As of September 28, 2016 additional funding from congress has been allocated to fight the Zika virus (Kelly, 2016). They approved an additional $1.1 billion.

Unfortunately, the Zika virus has not yet hit the recovery phase of a crisis. The Zika virus has no vaccination, medication, or cure. The CDC and WHO have a lot of research left to do before they find a way to stop the spread of the virus.

Recovery Phase

There are a few main things that need to be known about the virus before we can enter the recovery phase. The complete effects of the virus are one thing. They need to know exactly how the virus can be transmitted, without any questions or doubt. They need a vaccination to prevent the spread of the virus. They need a medication to treat patients who are infected. It would be highly beneficial if they could also obtain a cure.

In order to reach any of these objectives the additional funding needs to be put to good use. They will have to do a lot more research and find a lot more answers. The CDC will need to fully understand how to control the spread of the virus.

The CDC needs a long term solution to the Zika virus and to reassure the public that the long term solution will be effective. Most importantly they need to find a way to try to prevent a public health outbreak from reaching the United States without a single treatment available.

 

 

References:

Maps of Zika in the United States. (2016, September 29). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/zika/intheus/maps-zika-us.html

Our Response to the Zika Virus. (n.d.). Retrieved October 01, 2016, from https://www.whitehouse.gov/zika

Overview. (2016, August 03). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/overview.html

What CDC is doing. (2016, September 28). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.cdc.gov/zika/about/whatcdcisdoing.html

WHO Director-General summarizes the outcome of the Emergency Committee regarding clusters of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome. (2016, February 1). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2016/emergency-committee-zika-microcephaly/en/

Zika virus and potential complications. (2016). Retrieved October 02, 2016, from http://www.who.int/emergencies/zika-virus/en/

Kelly, E. (2016, September 28). Congress approves deal to keep government open, fight Zika. Retrieved October 01, 2016, from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/09/28/senate-approves-deal-keep-government-open-combat-zika/91220226/

Phillips, J. A.. (08/01/2016). Zika Virus. Workplace health & safety. (64)8. p.396 – 396.

Mole, B. (2016, April 06). After standoff with Congress, White House robs Ebola fund to pay for Zika. Retrieved October 01, 2016, from http://arstechnica.com/science/2016/04/after-stand-off-with-congress-white-house-robs-ebola-fund-to-pay-for-zika/

Stamm, S., & Cameron, D. (2016, September 28). All the reported cases of Zika in the United States. Retrieved October 02, 2016, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/national/us-zika-cases/

 

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