Say “foot-and-mouth disease” really fast. (Foot-and-mouth disease.) Did you blur the “and” into an “in”? Every comedian wannabe is having a hay day with this one. As my father-in-law says, you don’t need to know much to have an opinion. Those are the types of opinions being bandied about in the online comments associated with news of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in South Korea. As I expected, there were vegetarians taking advantage of the situation to rant against animal agriculture. Unexpectedly, there was frequent discussion of the name of the disease.
As Dr. Steve Van Wie has warned, there were frequent connections made between FMD, the animal disease, and hand-foot-and-mouth disease (HFMD), the disease of young children. These are not caused by the same virus at all!! Someone claimed that FMD took the lives of a couple people in England in 2001. He may be right if he meant suicides, although he had an under-estimate of that toll of the disease.
I don’t know who officially names diseases, but they might consider listening to these comments. Crisis communicators talk about making your message clear. Dispersing the fog of misinformation and getting clear messages across will require attention to multiple media threads and understanding where your audience is coming from.
Originally published Jan 4, 2011