Sample Alert Messages for the Community
Note: These scenarios are examples of alert messages that state and local public health departments can use to create their own alert messages as part of their smallpox emergency planning efforts. They are written to cover different aspects of a hypothetical smallpox emergency.
Scenario 1: Written for the public at the very beginning of a smallpox outbreak
This is an urgent message from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that [#] individuals in [area] have been diagnosed with smallpox. Smallpox is a serious, life-threatening disease caused by infection with a virus (variola virus).
Smallpox spreads from one person to another through face-to-face contact. People with smallpox spread the virus that causes the disease when they cough or sneeze and droplets from their nose or mouth spread to other people. The fluid inside a sick person’s sores and the particles in scabs can also spread the virus that causes the disease.
These are the first confirmed cases of smallpox in the world since it was declared eradicated in 1980. At this time, officials do not know how these individuals were exposed to the virus that causes the disease. We do not know the extent or the source of the smallpox outbreak; however, local, state, and federal officials, including public health and law enforcement, are working together to find these answers. They will update you as soon as they learn more.
Medical care can help manage some of the symptoms of smallpox, but smallpox can still be life-threatening. There are vaccines for smallpox. When given before exposure to the smallpox virus, vaccination can prevent the disease. When given within several days of exposure to the virus, vaccination may prevent a person from developing smallpox, or may make the disease less severe.
Public health officials are working together to identify people who might have been exposed to the virus to offer them the smallpox vaccine. They are also working to identify all people who have been in contact with the individuals who have smallpox to offer them the vaccine. Based on what is known now, public health officials believe the best way to stop the spread of disease is by vaccinating the people who have had close contact with the patients. Authorities will continue to assess the best course of action as they learn more. If they decide it is necessary to offer the vaccination to more people, public health officials will communicate where and when the vaccination is available through TV, radio, newspapers, and the internet. The United States has enough vaccine to vaccinate every person in the United States, free of charge.
At this time, it is unknown how many people have been exposed to the virus that causes smallpox. The first symptoms of the disease are a high fever (101°F to 105°F), headaches, and body aches. Some people may also experience vomiting. These symptoms last for two to four days before a rash appears. If you have symptoms of smallpox, call your local public health department at [phone number] or your doctor immediately. They will give you information on how and where to get help. Until you can get medical help, stay away from others to prevent them from getting smallpox if you have it.
Authorities will give updates on the situation as they learn more. For more information on how you can protect yourself, your family, and your community during this outbreak, contact [local public health department name and contact info]. You may also call CDC at 1-800-CDC-INFO or visit www.cdc.gov/smallpox.
Scenario 2: Written for the public living in an area where mass vaccination is offered
On [date], [#] of people were confirmed to have smallpox in [city/area]. Based on the information available now, public health authorities have determined that the best course of action to stop the spread of smallpox is to offer vaccination to everyone in [area].
The [local public health department] will offer the smallpox vaccine to everyone living in [city/area], free of charge. Vaccination clinics will open [date and time] and will run until [date and time].
There is no cure for smallpox. Medical care can help manage some of the symptoms of smallpox, but smallpox can still be life-threatening. When given before exposure to the smallpox virus, vaccination can prevent the disease. When given within several days of an exposure to the virus, vaccination may prevent a person from developing smallpox, or it may make the disease less severe. The vaccine is the best way to prevent smallpox.
Public health authorities from [Local], [state], and CDC strongly encourage everyone living in [city/area] to get vaccinated as soon as possible. If you live outside [city/area], follow the guidance of your local health authority.
For a full list of clinic locations and hours, visit [URL] or call [local phone number and toll-free number]. If you have questions about the vaccines, please contact [contact phone number], visit CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/smallpox, or speak with your doctor or healthcare provider.
Please bring with you to the vaccination clinic a list of:
- All medications you currently take
- Any illnesses or health conditions you have, especially any conditions that lower your body’s ability to fight infections
Authorities will give updates on the situation as they learn more. For more information on this outbreak, contact [local public health department name and contact info] or visit www.cdc.gov/smallpox.