Communities Work Together to Help Silence Whooping Cough
Nov 08, 2012

Washington State is one of several states in the midst of a whooping cough epidemic.  Sadly,  the number of reported cases continues to rise. Currently, there have been 4,348 reported cases of whooping cough in 2012 in the state of Washington alone, compared to only 524 for the same period in that state in 2011.
To address this growing public health threat, immunization advocates across the state – and even across the country – are trying to identify effective ways to raise awareness around the epidemic and encourage people to get immunized, which is how I became aware of the new Silence Whooping Cough campaign.  This campaign has been funded by the Group Health Foundation and created in partnership with the Washington State Department of Health, as well as Thurston County Public Health and Social Services.   It has been the goal of these public health advocates to actively communicate information about the state epidemic and work together to ensure that all messaging about the disease is accurate and consistent.
In advance of the campaign development, a survey was conducted in the western part of the state, where the epidemic is most highly concentrated, which determined that although citizens appear to be aware of the epidemic, and even possess a high willingness to get vaccinated to prevent pertussis, there has been some confusion about who needs to get vaccinated and how often.  Based on the results of this survey, the Group Health Foundation shaped a campaign that was designed to clarify the differences between the Tdap and DTaP so that people will understand who needs which vaccine and when they should be administered.
Since whooping cough is much more serious for infants and young children – who usually catch the disease from parents, grandparents, and siblings who are not aware that they are infected – the immunization efforts are primarily focused on mothers with young children, with an additional emphasis that everyone should contact their health care provider to find out if their whooping cough immunization is up-to-date.
The Silence Whooping Cough campaign directs people to an informative website through online banner ads, billboards, social media, and various other educational materials.  The key to success has been that the campaign is being distributed through the cooperation of numerous community groups such as health care providers, pharmacists, PTAs, child care facilities, employers, parenting groups and YMCAs.   There have even been several free back-to-school vaccination clinics for uninsured and low-income children and adults, and over 50 local organizations have joined in the efforts to ensure the information is getting out within the larger community.
This kind of involvement and concern has not only helped to build awareness of pertussis, but it has also helped to identify and engage local immunization champions to ensure that the conversation around whooping cough and vaccination is elevated within the community.
In the coming months, the Silence Whooping Cough campaign materials will be packaged in a toolkit so that the efforts to reduce the spread of pertussis can easily be replicated in other counties and possibly even other states.
Perhaps, when more and more people begin taking note of stories from the campaign – like Michelle’s story featured in the video above – they will understand that up-to-date vaccination can help protect the  youngest and most vulnerable members of our community from a devastating and often debilitating diseases known as whooping cough.  Help us create healthier communities everywhere and do you part to spread the message.
For more information about the Silence Whooping Cough campaign, please contact Joe Turcotte at turcotte.j(at)

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