Actress and Mother Maria Canals Berrera Encourages Hispanic Families to Stay Healthy Through Annual Influenza Vaccination

Rostros de la gripe, an influenza education campaign from the American Lung Association, addresses low influenza vaccination rates in Hispanic Communities

Washington, D.C. (October 4, 2012)

Cuban-American actress and multi ALMA Award winner, Maria Canals Barrera, best known for taking care of her onscreen family as the “proud Latina” mother on the Disney Channel Emmy-winning TV series “Wizards of Waverly Place,” is taking a leading role in the Rostros de la gripe campaign to help educate the public about the importance of influenza immunization for everyone 6 months of age and older. Rostros de la gripe is a Spanish language influenza educational initiative made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

With more than 50 million Hispanic Americans recommended for annual vaccination, it is critically important for the entire Hispanic community to understand that they need to get immunized to help protect themselves from contracting the flu and to help prevent the spread of this serious disease to family members and other individuals who may be even more vulnerable to influenza disease.

Maria knows that everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading the flu. That is why she made sure that she and her daughters got vaccinated in preparation for this flu season, and she plans to continue to ensure they all get their flu shots every year.

“As a parent, there are many things we cannot control, but getting flu shots for my girls and me is one way to help keep our family and our community healthy this flu season,” said Maria. “I have joined the American Lung Association’s Rostros de la gripe campaign to help educate Hispanic Americans about the importance of influenza vaccination this and every year.”

The CDC reports that up to 9.5 million Hispanic Americans will suffer from the flu in an average year. “The Hispanic community is at greater risk for developing complications from the flu due to increased incidences of certain chronic medical conditions, yet vaccination rates for Hispanics are low making it that much more important to educate this group about the importance of influenza vaccination,” said Luis Rodriguez, MD, Chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine, speaking on behalf of the American Lung Association. “Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza. There are vaccine options for every age – children, adults and seniors – so people should talk with their health care provider to find the option that’s right for them and their families this season.”

Influenza Vaccination is Important for Family Members and Caregivers
Through the Rostros de la gripe campaign, Maria is joined by other mothers and families who have had personal experiences with influenza to help motivate families to help protect themselves from influenza by getting vaccinated. Various celebrities and health officials are also part of the campaign to represent the diverse “faces” of influenza.

New York City native Ramona Cruz is a mother of 4, grandmother of 7 and great-grandmother of 5, who always thought influenza could be prevented by home remedies until she contracted influenza and developed complications including a serious case of bronchitis and chronic asthma. Ramona now encourages her entire family to get vaccinated and knows there are others out there who need to be educated so they can help protect themselves and their families.

Maria, Ramona and other campaign “faces” are being featured in a multitude of national public awareness activities designed to reach the public and health care providers with their stories about how influenza can quickly affect the lives of anyone.

Photographs and profiles of all the Faces of Influenza can be found on the campaign website, www.rostrosdelagripe.org. The website also offers the public and health care providers more information about influenza and the importance of immunization, educational materials and links to other resources.

About Influenza
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness, especially for the Hispanic community. According to the CDC, up to 9.5 million Hispanic Americans will suffer from influenza in an average year. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone in the U.S. 6 months of age and older. Children ages 6 months through 8 years who are receiving a flu shot for the first time will need two doses approximately one month apart for the best protection.

Groups at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications include people 50 years of age and older; pregnant women; people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease, diabetes and others; and residents of long-term care facilities and nursing homes. The CDC also recommends a yearly vaccination for those who come into close contact with high-risk groups, such as household contacts, caregivers and health care providers.

Immunization to prevent influenza can begin as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer and early fall. However, for those who can’t get vaccinated early in the influenza season, such as children who are not yet 6 months of age or any others who missed their annual shot, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. This is because, in many seasons, influenza activity doesn’t peak until winter or early spring. It only takes about two weeks for the vaccine to help protect against the virus.

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About the American Lung Association
Now in its second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease. With your generous support, the American Lung Association is “Fighting for Air” through research, education and advocacy. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Guide Seal, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lung.org.

For More Information
For more information about the Rostros de la gripe educational initiative, visit www.rostrosdelagripe.org. For more 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 Rostros de la gripe educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.