Cook County Launches “Fight the Bite” Campaign to Combat Zika

fightthebite1Local health departments (LHDs) across the nation continue to respond to and brace for cases of Zika. Although the mosquitoes that carry Zika do not thrive in Cook County, Illinois, the Cook County Department of Public Health (CCDPH) is taking a proactive role in raising awareness about the virus among residents. Through a campaign launched in August, CCDPH is urging community members to Fight the Bite by eliminating opportunities for mosquitoes to breed outside homes, using insect repellent when outdoors, and keeping mosquitoes outside by ensuring doors and windows have fitted screens. Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant are also encouraged to protect their pregnancy by delaying travel to Zika-affected areas, preventing sexual transmission, and avoiding mosquito bites.

In the following interview, CCDPH staff share how their LHD developed messaging for Zika and West Nile viruses for different audiences. Team members who participated in this interview were Kiran Joshi, MD, Senior Medical Officer, Emergency Preparedness and Response Unit (EPRU); Rachel Rubin, MD, Senior Medical Officer, Environmental Health Services Unit; LaToya DuBose, MPA, Director, Emergency Preparedness and Response; Deanna Durica, MPH, Director, Policy Development and Communications; and Kimberley Conrad Junius, MFA, Health Communications Specialist.

Q: How did the campaign come about and what are its goals?
“Fight the Bite” is a campaign we do every year for West Nile Virus prevention. This year, we decided to use it as an umbrella campaign to raise awareness about both West Nile and Zika. When we first conceived of this, we drew a Venn diagram. One circle represented West Nile and the other circle represented Zika, and where they overlapped was mosquito bite prevention. People in our community were looking for information on Zika, so we leveraged that “need to know” around Zika and combined it with the West Nile information since that is a bigger threat in our jurisdiction.

Q: What was the design process like?
The logo and posters were designed in-house by Kim Junius, who is a graphic designer, and informed the rest of our campaign design. Using Vincent Covello and Peter Sandman’s guidance on message mapping, we chose three key messages as the foundation for the campaign while following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) lead to ensure consistency with the national outreach. We did not want the public to be confused in any way. Based on information from national calls with CDC, the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Northern Illinois Public Health Consortium, we were clear that women who were pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant and their partners were the primary target audience.

Q: How did you reach women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant?
We sought to reach our target audience through a variety of mediums to optimize exposure, reinforce messages and engage people in different ways. We displayed posters at hand sanitizer kiosks in grocery stores and shopping malls throughout suburban Cook County, and aired television commercials during the morning and evening news and daytime television based on viewership insights from the television station. We also used Mobile Plus to serve ads to people who were on their cell phones and within a 1-mile radius of the grocery stores or malls where the hand sanitizer posters were. When they clicked on our ad they were directed to our website ( which was also revamped for this campaign.

Q: What were some the challenges you faced in planning and implementing the campaign and what lessons will you take from this campaign for future public health events?
We knew that West Nile would make its way throughout suburban Cook County as it does every summer, but Zika presented a lot of unknowns. It was an evolving situation and we were learning as we went. Working with two different diseases, two different species of mosquito, and two different target audiences was a major challenge, but where there were challenges, there were also opportunities.

For example, we experimented with using different, perhaps newer, mediums such as the hand sanitizer kiosk posters and MobilePlus geofencing to reinforce messages in a variety of ways. The Zika response also presented another opportunity for leadership and senior staff to exercise responding to a public health emergency with each other across disciplines (communicable disease, environmental health, public information, emergency preparedness) and we had a very positive experience that we will surely reference in responding to future events.

fightthebite3Q: What advice do you have for other local health departments trying to raise awareness of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases in their communities?
Maintaining a health equity lens is key. It’s easy to talk about and not easy to do. We struggle with it, but it’s critical. We also recommend people remain open to suggestions from vendors. You never know what ideas they can bring to the table that will help you be more cutting edge. We encourage health departments to consider advertising on Facebook and Twitter. It’s a very inexpensive and effective way to reach people.

Visit the Fight the Bite homepage to learn more about the campaign and the Fight the Bite Marketing Materials page to view and download online and print materials and television and radio commercials. Please note these resources are available for other health departments to co-brand and print. Contact Kim Junius to request design files. To stay updated on what local health departments need to know about Zika, view NACCHO’s ongoing Zika coverage.

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