Mass alerts aim to curb California epidemic

With pertussis reaching an epidemic level in California, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) is using every tool at its disposal to help inform students, parents and residents about the potentially deadly disease.

Director Dr. Mark Horton has created a recorded message about the infectious disease -- known commonly as whooping cough -- which can be sent for free by all K-12 schools and districts, colleges and universities and local governments using the Blackboard Connect™ service. The message, which can be sent in voice and text form to millions of Californians, emphasizes the importance of children and adults getting vaccinated to protect against pertussis, as infants are particularly vulnerable.

“Don’t let this preventable disease strike you or your family,” says Dr. Horton in the message. “Make sure children are caught up on their pertussis immunizations. Children 7-9 years of age who did not complete their childhood vaccination series need to get a pertussis booster. And everyone age 10 and older should get a booster vaccine to protect against pertussis.”

While symptoms often mirror the common cold, pertussis is a highly contagious disease that is usually spread by coughing and sneezing of infected persons. According to the CDPH, the number of cases of pertussis is higher than it has been in 50 years.

Blackboard and CDPH first partnered last spring to help manage the spread of H1N1 in California. Schools and colleges used the Blackboard Connect™ platform to send voice, text and e-mail messages from Dr. Horton with important tips on flu prevention and vaccine information.

Now Blackboard is sharing the director’s pertussis message with more than 1,000 educators and public health leaders in California.

“Knowledge and information is the first defense against disease,” said Ed Miller, President of Blackboard Connect. “With the Blackboard Connect mass notification service, our customers can reach thousands of Californians quickly through voice, email and SMS text messages, providing critical information from top public health officials.”