Kristi Yamaguchi Urges Vaccination to Help Protect Families from Seasonal Influenza

(September 15, 2009)

What's your first line of defense this influenza season? Kristi Yamaguchi's is vaccination against the seasonal flu virus for herself and her family, including her two young daughters. As national spokesperson for the American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza program, Kristi encourages all families to make sure their loved ones are vaccinated as soon as possible. 

You may know Kristi as an Olympic gold medalist and a winner of "Dancing with the Stars," but she is also a "face" of influenza – one of the more than 250 million people recommended for vaccination every year by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She has joined the Faces of Influenza campaign to urge Americans to see themselves, their family, and friends as "faces" of this disease, and to talk to their doctors about getting vaccinated.

"I take my daughters to get vaccinated every year because it's the best protection against seasonal influenza," Kristi said. "I also ask everyone in contact with them to make sure they are vaccinated as well, to help create a cocoon of protection."

To make sure Americans, and especially moms, understand the importance of annual vaccination, Kristi will be conducting media interviews throughout the influenza season, to talk about the Faces of Influenza program, and why getting vaccinated every year is important for her family's health.

Kristi and Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association, will officially kick-off this year's Faces of Influenza campaign with media outreach activities on Tuesday, September 15. The kick-off will be followed by ongoing activities, including distribution of TV and radio public service announcements. More information is available on the Faces of Influenza Web site (www.facesofinfluenza.org).

Throughout the season, Kristi will be joined by many other famous and not-so-famous "faces" of influenza to share their personal stories and help Americans understand the seriousness of seasonal influenza and its complications. Some "faces" of influenza have tragically lost loved ones to the disease, and now want to do everything they can to remind their communities to get vaccinated this and every influenza season.

In addition, local Lung Associations across the country will have access to customizable resource materials to help bring the program to their communities. Look for awareness activities in the following cities:

  • Cleveland
  • Dallas/Ft. Worth
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Indianapolis
  • Kansas City
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Sacramento
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg
  • Who is recommended for annual vaccination?

    "The emergence of the novel H1N1 virus (sometimes called "swine flu") is a strong reminder that influenza is a serious health threat," says Dr. Edelman. "It is especially important for the American public to speak with their doctors about getting themselves and their families vaccinated against seasonal influenza to help prevent the spread of the disease."

    "The American Lung Association urges annual vaccination against seasonal influenza as the first line of defense this flu season. It is likely that a vaccine will be available later in the season for the H1N1 virus as well, so it is especially important to talk to your doctor and follow advice from public health officials to make sure you are protected," adds Dr. Edelman. "Vaccination is the best way to protect against the influenza virus." 

    Seasonal influenza is an annual public health threat that can cause serious complications, and even death. More than four out of five people are recommended for annual vaccination, including: children six months to 18 years of age; people over 50 years of age and older; pregnant women; people with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease or diabetes; and people living in long-term care facilities and nursing homes.

    The CDC also recommends annual immunization for caregivers and household contacts of these high-risk groups, such as relatives and health care providers, and anyone who wishes to reduce their risk for contracting the seasonal influenza virus. Vaccine is available now, and in most seasons, influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

    In an average year, influenza hospitalizes 226,000 Americans and is responsible for approximately 36,000 deaths. To help protect individuals from this disease and its complications, the CDC recommends seasonal influenza vaccination as the first line of defense.

    Learn more about the Faces of Influenza campaign by visiting www.facesofinfluenza.org. To find a vaccine clinic near you, visit www.lung.org and log on to the Flu Clinic Locator.   

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