American Lung Association Urges “Faces” of Influenza to Help Prevent Seasonal Flu by Getting Vaccinated

(November 4, 2009)

Faces of InfluenzaThe American Lung Association wants to remind everyone that seasonal influenza is more than the "common cold." It is a serious respiratory disease, and an annual public health threat. While the H1N1 flu has dominated headlines, it's an unfortunate fact that every year, seasonal flu and its related complications cause approximately 226,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths, including an average of 60 children in the past 3 influenza seasons, in the United States alone. 

Any death is a tragedy, especially one that could have been prevented. Annual vaccination is the simplest and best protection against seasonal influenza.

The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza campaign, now in its fourth year, is designed to help Americans see themselves as "faces" of influenza – those who are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to get vaccinated every year.

Get to Know the "Faces"

The Faces of Influenza program includes the firsthand stories of those who know how dangerous the virus can be. Tragically, some of these "faces" have lost loved ones from influenza and its related complications. They share their personal stories of influenza because they know other families may relate to these experiences and better understand why vaccination is important for their loved ones.

Unfortunately, Detroit father Zack Yaksich's story hits home for every parent. In 2003, after developing a fever of 106 degrees, Zach and his wife rushed their five year old daughter Alana to the emergency room, where she was diagnosed with encephalitis, swelling of the brain that can be caused by influenza. Within 24 hours, the Yaksich family was forever changed. Tragically, Alana died at the hospital from influenza-related complications. Alana had not been vaccinated against influenza. 

The CDC recommends children between the ages of six months to 18 years old get vaccinated each and every year.  

Since Alana's death, Zack and his wife now make sure their entire family, including two sons, gets vaccinated every year.  

Kristin Rogers, her husband and three children, ages 9, 5, and 1, all have asthma, which puts them at risk for developing serious complications from influenza, including hospitalization.  "My entire family suffers from severe asthma, so getting the flu shot is a must! I need to keep my family healthy and out of the hospital during influenza season, and getting vaccinated can help do that," said Kristin.

According to the CDC, adults 50 years of age and older are hardest hit by seasonal influenza. In fact, nearly 90 percent of deaths caused by influenza and pneumonia occur among people 65 years of age and older.  As older Americans, Dody and Earl Kinsella know they are at a higher risk for complications from this serious virus. That's why for more than 20 years, they have faithfully received their influenza vaccinations. Living with a serious heart condition for more than 15 years, getting vaccinated is that much more important for Dody. Contracting influenza would put Dody at even greater risk for serious complications.   

"When I had aortic surgery to help correct my condition, the doctor gave me less than a 20 percent chance of survival," Dody said. "I've had to take chances with my life because of my heart condition, and I've survived. But getting the flu because I didn't get vaccinated is a chance I would never take."

Who Are the "Faces" of Influenza in Your Life?

Chances are you or those you love are "faces" of influenza and should get a seasonal influenza vaccination. In fact, the CDC estimates that four out of every five people in the U.S., or more than 250 million, should get immunized this and every year. The CDC recommends seasonal influenza vaccination as the best protection against the virus.

Annual vaccination is essential for millions of Americans, including:

  • Anyone who wants to prevent influenza
  • Children 6 months-18 years of age
  • Adults 50 years of age and older
  • Women who are pregnant during the influenza season
  • Adults and children with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, weakened immune system, diabetes, and others
  • Residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes
  • Household contacts and caregivers of anyone in a high-risk group, including children younger than 6 months of age who are too young to be vaccinated. These contacts include:
    • Parents
    • Grandparents
    • Siblings
    • Babysitters
    • Day care providers
  • Health-care personnel who come in contact with patients

To read complete stories of these "faces" and numerous others, including national spokesperson Kristi Yamaguchi, please visit www.facesofinfluenza.org. The site also features educational resources for parents, families and healthcare professionals and interactive components, including the Flu Clinic Locator, which will help locate a vaccine clinic near you. 

The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.

H1N1 Flu

The circulation of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is a strong reminder that influenza is a serious disease. With two separate influenza viruses circulating this year, vaccination is an important preventative step in protecting against both strains. Separate vaccinations are required for both seasonal and H1N1 influenza. You can learn more about H1N1, who's at risk and how to protect your loved ones here