American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza Campaign Stresses the Importance of Seasonal Influenza Vaccination

Washington, DC (September 15, 2009)

 

  • American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza program reminds Americans that annual vaccination against seasonal influenza is recommended for more than 80 percent of the U.S. population
  • Circulation of the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus is a strong reminder that influenza is a serious disease
  • Kristi Yamaguchi joins leading public health organizations, families affected by influenza, and health care professionals across the country to encourage Americans to get immunized against seasonal influenza

The American Lung Association is intensifying its seasonal influenza public education initiative to urge families to get vaccinated as soon as possible. The Faces of Influenza campaign aims to ensure Americans get immunized against seasonal influenza, which each year causes an estimated 36,000 deaths and over 226,000 hospitalizations from the virus and its related complications.

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

Seasonal influenza is an annual threat, and more than 80 percent of the U.S. population is recommended to receive the vaccine. In an average year, up to one in five Americans may be infected with the virus, which can cause missed days at school or the office, hospitalizations - and even death.

“Seasonal influenza remains a serious concern, even with the presence of the 2009 H1N1 virus,” said Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “Vaccination against seasonal influenza is the best protection against this annual disease. Speak with your doctor about getting you and your family vaccinated to help prevent the spread of the virus.”

The CDC recommends seasonal influenza vaccination for more than 250 million Americans. It is especially important for those in high-risk groups and their close contacts to get immunized against seasonal influenza as soon as vaccine is available to avoid serious complications from infection. Immunization throughout the full season is beneficial, as seasonal influenza virus activity typically peaks in February or March.

The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative has expanded this year to include regional activities in 13 communities: Dallas/Ft. Worth, Denver, Indianapolis and Miami. Other cities involved are Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Mo.; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa/St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Faces of Influenza educational initiative also features a comprehensive speakers’ campaign that involves dozens of spokespersons across the country, sharing their personal stories about the dangers seasonal influenza placed on their families.

Kristi Yamaguchi, mother, Olympic Gold Medalist and winner of “Dancing with the Stars,” serves as the national spokesperson for the Faces of Influenza program. As a mother of two young girls, Kristi’s first priority is the health of her family. She makes sure everyone in her family is immunized annually against influenza.

“Through the Faces of Influenza program, I’ve worked with families who have lost loved ones to the disease and its complications. Their tragic experiences are a reminder that seasonal influenza is serious,” Kristi said.

“I take my daughters to get vaccinated every year because it’s the best protection against 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.”

With more than four out of five Americans recommended for annual vaccination, chances are we all know someone who should get vaccinated against seasonal influenza this and every year. The American Lung Association encourages everyone to visit www.faceofinfluenza.org to learn more about influenza, and the groups recommended for annual vaccination against this seasonal disease.

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 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 2009 H1N1 Influenza
2009 H1N1 is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. The seasonal influenza vaccine is not expected to protect against the new 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. For more information about the 2009 H1N1 virus, including vaccination recommendations, please visit www.cdc.gov.

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.