Clevelanders Urged to See "Faces" of Influenza

Cleveland (September 23, 2009)

Public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend seasonal influenza vaccination as the first line of defense this year in protecting against the influenza virus.

 

In an effort to educate Cleveland area residents about the importance of annual seasonal influenza vaccinations, the American Lung Association of Ohio is partnering with the Cleveland Department of Public Health to kick off the 2009-2010 influenza season in Cleveland.  Free seasonal flu shots will be offered to all Cleveland residents, in support of the Faces of Influenza initiative.  The seasonal influenza vaccinations will be administered at the Merrick House Fulton located at 3167 Fulton Road in Cleveland, Ohio from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009.

 

The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign encourages local residents to see themselves and their loved ones among the many “faces” of influenza – people who fall into one or more target groups recommended for annual vaccination by the CDC.

 

“The recent H1N1 outbreak is a strong reminder that influenza is not the common cold.  It’s a serious respiratory illness,” said Emily Lee, Program Director, American Lung Association of Ohio.  “Each year approximately 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die due to complications.” 

 

Despite recommendations by health experts that more than four out of five Americans get vaccinated against seasonal influenza annually, fewer than half actually do.

 

On average, between 23,920 and 95,680 Cleveland area residents will suffer from seasonal influenza, yet immunization rates fall short each year. 

 

Infant Mortality Awareness Month in Cleveland

In support of Infant Mortality Awareness Month in Cleveland, the American Lung Association of Ohio is encouraging all parents to get their children vaccinated against seasonal influenza, a potentially deadly disease. The CDC has recently expanded its annual influenza vaccination recommendations to include all children between 6 months through 18 years of age.

 

Cleveland resident Rick Cerett lost his infant grandson, Marques, to complications from influenza during the Christmas season of 2003. He was just shy of his 6 month birthday – the earliest a child can be vaccinated against influenza. Rick now is a crusader for yearly seasonal influenza vaccinations for parents, caregivers and children to help protect young infants. Rick has joined the Faces of Influenza awareness program to help prevent similar tragedies from striking other families.

 

“You think of influenza killing older people, not babies,” said Rick. “But if you’re around an infant, you need to get the vaccine to protect them and, once your kids are old enough, they need to be vaccinated too.”

 

In the United States, more children die from influenza each year than all other vaccine preventable diseases. Additionally, pediatric influenza immunization rates are far below rates for other childhood vaccines.

 

Additionally, recent studies have found that vaccination in pregnant women also helps to protect their babies from the disease.

 

Chances Are, We All Know Many “Faces” of Influenza

The Faces of Influenza campaign, which includes expanded awareness initiatives nationally and in many major cities, supports the CDC’s call for Americans to get vaccinated against seasonal influenza this and every year.

 

Celebrities, health officials and everyday people have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign, sharing personal stories about their experiences with the disease and encouraging influenza vaccination among recommended groups.

 

The Lung Association is working with other families across the country who have lost loved ones to influenza. These parents, as well as others involved in the program, have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign to help families avoid the tragedies they experienced.

 

On a national level, Olympic Gold Medalist figure skater, “Dancing with the Stars” winner and mother Kristi Yamaguchi is the spokesperson for the Faces of Influenza campaign. Other celebrity “faces” featured include: actor Dean Cain, who played Superman on ABC’s “Lois and Clark”; Dr. Joyce Brothers, well-known psychologist and advice columnist; Joy Behar, comedian and co-host of ABC’s “The View”; and Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers.

 

Faces of Influenza Awareness Activities

The Faces of Influenza initiative also includes educational materials for consumers and health care providers, as well as the national distribution of television and radio public service announcements featuring Kristi Yamaguchi and the high-risk groups recommended for seasonal influenza immunization. The Lung Association has developed a Web site, www.facesofinfluenza.org, where consumers and health care providers can find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the site can also view the photographs and stories featured in the Faces of Influenza Portrait Gallery, view the public service campaign and utilize the Lung Association’s Flu Clinic Locator, www.flucliniclocator.org, an online database designed to help patients find local vaccination clinics throughout the influenza season.

 

About Seasonal Influenza

Seasonal influenza, along with its complications, is a serious respiratory illness. On average, 36,000 Americans die and about 226,000 people are hospitalized each year. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent influenza and its complications. The CDC recommends that anyone who wishes to reduce their risk of contracting influenza; children 6 months-18 years of age; adults over 50 years of age; pregnant women; and anyone with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), heart disease and diabetes, receive an annual influenza immunization. The CDC also recommends annual immunization for caregivers and household contacts of these high-risk groups, such as relatives and health care providers.  

 

Vaccination typically begins in October and can continue through March. The 2009-2010 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations state that vaccination efforts should begin as soon as vaccine is available and continue through the influenza season. In most seasons, seasonal influenza virus activity peaks in February or March, so vaccination throughout the entire influenza season is beneficial and recommended.

About the Flu Clinic Locator

In addition to this new campaign, the Lung Association continues to offer its Flu Clinic Locator as a public service. The Flu Clinic Locator is the largest online directory of public seasonal influenza vaccination clinics.  By typing in their 5-digit ZIP code, site visitors can receive a list of immunization clinics in their area. Site visitors may also schedule appointment reminders and sign up to receive seasonal influenza news. The Web site, www.flucliniclocator.org, remains active as long as public influenza immunization clinics are offered.

 

About the American Lung Association 
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives, improve lung health and prevent lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy.

 

For More Information

For more information about the Faces of Influenza educational initiative, visit www.facesofinfluenza.org. For information about the American Lung Association or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or log onto www.lung.org. The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.