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Hygiene and biosecurity: the language and politics of risk in an era of emerging infectious diseases

Brown, Brian; Nerlich, Brigitte; Crawford, Paul; Koteyko, Nelya; Carter, Ronald


Brian Brown

Brigitte Nerlich

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Professor of Health Humanities

Nelya Koteyko

Ronald Carter


Infectious diseases, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and avian influenza, have recently been high on the agenda of policy makers and the public. Although hygiene and biosecurity are preferred options for disease management, policy makers have become increasingly aware of the critical role that communication assumes in protecting people during outbreaks and epidemics. This article makes the case for a language-based approach to understanding the public perception of disease. Health language research carried out by the authors, based on metaphor analysis and corpus linguistics, has shown that concepts of journeys, pathways, thresholds, boundaries and barriers have emerged as principal framing devices used by stakeholders to advocate a hygiene based risk and disease management. These framings provide a common ground for debate, but lead to quite different perceptions and practices. This in turn might be a barrier to global disease management in a modern world.


Brown, B., Nerlich, B., Crawford, P., Koteyko, N., & Carter, R. (2009). Hygiene and biosecurity: the language and politics of risk in an era of emerging infectious diseases. Sociology Compass, 3(5),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 4, 2008
Publication Date Sep 23, 2009
Deposit Date May 13, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 13, 2016
Journal Sociology Compass
Electronic ISSN 1751-9020
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 3
Issue 5
Keywords Risk, Infectious Diseases, Hygiene, Biosecurity, Health Language, Communication, Metaphor, Corpus Linguistics
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Additional Information This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Brown, B., Nerlich, B., Crawford, P., Koteyko, N. and Carter, R. (2009), Hygiene and Biosecurity: The Language and Politics of Risk in an Era of Emerging Infectious Diseases. Sociology Compass, 3: 811–823. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2009.00230.x which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.