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Meningitis, Twitter and Federal Brands

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A. falciforme fungus is a known causative agent for diseases such as meningitis. A. falciforme fungus is a known causative agent for diseases such as meningitis. CDC

When it comes to a public health crisis, the public apparently wants to know what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has to say. At least on Twitter. Mashable reports that a study shows that since news of a meningitis outbreak caused by a contaminated steroid drug broke, Twitter users have searched on the term "CDC" more than 13,000 times for information about it. 

That's not unusal,  unusual, given CDC's prominent role in dealing with disease outbreaks. And indeed, if you search hard enough, you'll find the agency has a page with information about fungal meningitis on its website, noting that it is helping to lead an effort to investigate the outbreak.

Another agency, the Food and Drug Administration, is heavily involved in that investigation, too, since the outbreak involves a tainted drug. Its statement on the outbreak and its consequences is front and center on the FDA's website. But in the initial days after the outbreak, Twitter users searched "FDA" in connection with the outbreak less than 4,000 times. 

It's not surprising that the general public might not be aware of the nuances of federal responsibility for disease outbreak and drug oversight. But the meningitis searches demonstrate that some agencies simply have stronger brands than others. And when it comes to public health issues, it appears the CDC is the trusted source for government information -- in the social media world, at least. 

Tom Shoop is vice president and editor in chief at Government Executive Media Group, where he oversees both print and online editorial operations. He started as associate editor of Government Executive magazine in 1989; launched the company’s flagship website, GovExec.com, in 1996; and was named editor in chief in 2007.

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