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Video: 'Sounds of Pertussis' Campaign Urges Adults to Take Action During National Immunization Awareness Month

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. and SWIFTWATER, Pa., Aug. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and while many people may associate vaccinations with babies, adults need immunizations, too. The "Sounds of Pertussis", a campaign from the March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of the sanofi-aventis Group, is educating adults about pertussis prevention, so that they can keep themselves healthy and reduce the risk of transmitting the disease to the infants in their lives.

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While pertussis, which is more commonly known as whooping cough, is often mistaken for a common cold or bronchitis in adults, it can be potentially deadly in infants. Adults can contract pertussis and unknowingly pass it on to others, including babies, who have the most serious complications and highest death rates from the disease. Children are typically immunized against pertussis, but are not fully protected until after receiving three or four doses of the vaccine. Immunity from the childhood pertussis vaccine wears off over time in adults, and, unfortunately, most are not aware they need to get an adult pertussis booster.

To encourage adults to make sure they are up-to-date on their tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster, the Office of the Mayor of New York City has joined the "Sounds of Pertussis" campaign and proclaimed August 20, 2009 "Pertussis Awareness Day."

"There are many things to worry about as a parent, but getting pertussis and giving the disease to your own child shouldn't be one of them. That's why I felt it was so important to be part of this campaign," said Jennifer Lopez. "If you're around infants, you should talk to your health-care provider to make sure you've gotten a Tdap booster." Earlier this year, actress, singer, entrepreneur, philanthropist and mother Jennifer Lopez lent her voice to the "Sounds of Pertussis" campaign by appearing in a series of television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) available in both English and Spanish. The PSAs encourage anyone who is, or will be, in close contact with a young infant to get vaccinated against pertussis.

"We're very pleased to be working on a campaign that continues the March of Dimes' tradition of championing the health of all babies," said Alan R. Fleischman, M.D., senior vice president and medical director for the March of Dimes. "By vaccinating themselves against pertussis, parents are taking one of the most important steps they can to help protect themselves and their infants from a disease that has been on the rise for the past decade."

Pertussis Awareness Day Activities

Throughout the day on August 20, 2009, guests are invited to visit the "Sounds of Pertussis" exhibit at Military Island in Times Square (between 43rd and 44th Streets on Broadway). The exhibit will include large screen TVs featuring the Jennifer Lopez PSAs, a pertussis "transmission toss" game, and information about pertussis and adult vaccination. In addition, a costumed mascot in the form of a giant replica of the Bordetella pertussis bacterium will be present. Supporters of the cause can visit the newly launched "Sounds of Pertussis" Facebook fan page ( featuring educational information about pertussis and a message from Jennifer Lopez with a call-to-action for adults to get vaccinated. Fans can pledge to get vaccinated to help protect themselves and their loved ones.

Pertussis Makes a Comeback

Between 2000-2003 and 2004-2007, there was a 100 percent increase in reported cases of pertussis. Estimates indicate that there may be as many as 800,000 to 3.3 million total adult and adolescent cases of pertussis in any given year.

Pertussis is highly contagious and is caused by bacteria that are spread through airborne droplets from the nose and throat. So a cough, sneeze or even talking very close could lead to exposure. In adults, symptoms are usually milder than those seen in infants, and pertussis is often mistaken for the common cold or bronchitis. In infants and some adults, pertussis causes severe coughing characterized by the unforgettable "whoop" sound made when gasping for breath after a coughing fit. It creates a sticky, thick mucous that makes it difficult to eat, drink and breathe. The coughing fits can be so violent that infants cannot catch their breath and may turn blue. Pertussis can also lead to other serious complications such as pneumonia, which can require hospitalization. In recent years, 90 percent of pertussis deaths have occurred in infants younger than 4 months of age.

Because Hispanic babies may be at a higher risk for contracting pertussis, and the risk of dying from pertussis may be higher in Hispanic infants than in non-Hispanic infants, the program is being implemented as a bilingual educational initiative.

Protecting Against Pertussis

While most infants are given routine diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP) immunizations, they do not begin the primary series until they are 2 months of age and may not be fully protected until they have completed their primary series of vaccinations. During this time, they are vulnerable to pertussis.

Accordingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all adults and adolescents 11 through 64 years of age, especially those who have close contact with an infant, be immunized with a tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (Tdap) booster. The CDC also recommends that new mothers get the Tdap vaccination in the immediate postpartum period to protect themselves from pertussis and reduce the risk for exposing their infants to the disease.

Adults who received vaccinations when they were children may mistakenly believe that they are still protected against pertussis, but immunity wears off over five to 10 years, leaving them vulnerable to contracting and spreading the disease.

"Despite the CDC recommendations, a 2007 survey showed that fewer than two percent of adults 18 through 64 years of age had ever received a Tdap vaccination," said Dr. Fleischman. "It is our goal with this campaign to ensure that all new parents are aware of pertussis and that they speak with their health-care providers about getting vaccinated."

National Immunization Awareness Month

National Immunization Awareness Month is designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) each August as the perfect time to remind family, friends, co-workers and those in the community to catch up on their vaccinations. Communities are encouraged to plan local health screenings or fairs, media events and other related immunization outreach efforts during the month of August to promote the benefits of immunization. Immunization is one of the most significant public health achievements of the 20th century. Vaccines have eradicated smallpox, eliminated wild poliovirus in the United States, and significantly reduced the number of cases of measles, diphtheria, rubella, pertussis and other diseases. But despite these efforts, people in the U.S. still die from some of these and other vaccine-preventable diseases, including pertussis.

Sounds of Pertussis

The "Sounds of Pertussis" campaign includes specific elements designed to reach the Hispanic population, which is the fastest growing and largest minority in the U.S. All of the PSAs have been created in both English and Spanish, and the campaign also includes a four-part radio novela that will air on Spanish-language radio stations throughout the country.

In addition to educational brochures, the campaign includes components to directly engage parents in helping to educate their friends and families about pertussis prevention for themselves and the babies in their lives. These components include a recorded telephone message and e-mails featuring Jennifer Lopez available for sharing on the campaign Web site. The video PSA is also available online for downloading and sharing.

Parents and other caregivers can learn more about pertussis, hear the sound of pertussis, send "Sounds of Pertussis" e-mails to friends and family and view the PSAs by visiting

About March of Dimes

The March of Dimes is the leading organization for pregnancy and baby health. With chapters nationwide and its premier event, March for Babies, the March of Dimes works to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. For the latest resources and information, visit or

March of Dimes and Sanofi Pasteur are working together on "Sounds of Pertussis" to help protect the health and wellness of adults and infants. For additional information about pertussis and immunization, and the relationship between Sanofi Pasteur and the March of Dimes, please visit The March of Dimes does not endorse specific products or brands.

About sanofi-aventis

Sanofi-aventis, a leading global pharmaceutical company, discovers, develops and distributes therapeutic solutions to improve the lives of everyone. Sanofi-aventis is listed in Paris (EURONEXT: SAN) and in New York (NYSE: SNY).

Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccines division of sanofi-aventis Group, provided more than 1.6 billion doses of vaccine in 2008, making it possible to immunize more than 500 million people across the globe. A world leader in the vaccine industry, Sanofi Pasteur offers the broadest range of vaccines protecting against 20 infectious diseases. The company's heritage, to create vaccines that protect life, dates back more than a century. Sanofi Pasteur is the largest company entirely dedicated to vaccines. Every day, the company invests more than EUR1 million in research and development. For more information, please visit: or

SOURCE March of Dimes; Sanofi Pasteur Inc.
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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