Using a checklist of disease characteristics and public risk perception, this tool helps to assess the urgency of risk communication in case of an infectious disease outbreak. It helps to decide who you want to reach, in what manner, and on what scale, so that people can be informed in time without causing unnecessary distress. People who are well informed feel safer, are less distressed, and respond better to necessary measures.


The public has an important role in the control of infectious disease outbreaks. On the one hand the public must be prepared to follow measures aimed at, for example, hygiene, prophylaxis or vaccination. On the other hand it may be the case that measures are not possible or necessary. The public will then have to cope with feelings of uncertainty and anxiety. It is therefore important that public health authorities communicate in time with the public, in an open and reliable way, addressing their specific needs. This tool can help in assessing the timing of communication, the target groups(s), and the manner and scale of communication.


Users need to fill in two checklist, one on the characteristics of the disease, and the other on the assumed risk perception of the public. Answers are categorised into low, moderate or high urgency of risk communication. By counting up the number of low, moderate and high scores, users get an indication of the urgency of risk communication. The answers also help to assess target groups (for example directly affected parties/contacts, managers, press), manner of communication (written or verbal communication) and scale of communication (small/local, or large/national).

In case it is difficult to estimate the risk perception of the public (because it is a newly emerging or unknown infectious disease), it is wise to organise a public survey to assess risk perception. Another tool in this toolbox (Assessing risk perception of the public) describes a standard questionnaire to measure public risk perception. With this questionnaire you can measure knowledge, perception of severity/susceptibility, anxiety, self-efficacy and efficacy of preventive measures, intention to carry out these measures, motivating/hindering factors, and information needs.