WASHINGTON, Oct. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Hispanic Americans are hit particularly hard by influenza with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reporting that up to 9.5 million Hispanic Americans will suffer from the flu in an average year. Yet, vaccination rates among this population are seriously low.
That is why Lili Estefan, mother of two and host of the popular show "El Gordo y la Flaca" is spearheading the Rostros de la gripe initiative to help educate the public about the importance of influenza immunization for everyone 6 months of age and older. Lili joined the campaign to help educate Hispanic Americans about the risk of developing complications from the flu and the importance of immunization.
"In the past, I didn't worry about getting influenza - that is, until I was hit hard by the virus and unable to work," said Lili Estefan. "It made me realize that my family was not protected and that there are many others out there, who like me, may not know how serious the flu can be and that it can be prevented with a vaccination."
Everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading the influenza virus, but Hispanic Americans in particular are considered at high risk of developing complications from influenza due to increased incidences of certain chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes. Despite this increased risk for influenza complications, vaccination rates for Hispanic Americans continue to remain alarmingly low. As of 2009, only about a quarter of all Latinos received their annual influenza vaccination.
"There is a strong need to educate the Hispanic community on the importance of influenza immunization for the entire family," said Luis Rodriguez, MD, Associate Professor of Pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine, speaking on behalf of the American Lung Association. "Getting vaccinated each year is the best way to help protect yourself and your loved ones from influenza and its complications."
Influenza Vaccination is Important for Family Members of All Generations
Through the Rostros de la gripe campaign, Lili is joined by other mothers and families who have had personal experiences with influenza and have lost loved ones to the disease. They want to help prevent the tragedies they experienced from happening to others. Various celebrities and health officials also are 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, as well as 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.
Lili, Ramona and other campaign "faces" will be featured in national public awareness activities including media outreach initiatives, broadcast public service announcement campaigns and educational materials designed to reach consumers and health care providers.
A comprehensive website, www.rostrosdelagripe.org, is available for consumers and health care providers to find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness, especially for the Hispanic community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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. Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza.
The CDC recommends vaccination for everyone in the U.S. 6 months of age and older; however groups at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications include people 50 years of age and older; children 6 months to 18 years of age; 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 flu vaccine for those who come into close contact with high-risk groups, such as household contacts, caregivers and health care providers.
You should be immunized as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer or early fall. If you don't have a chance to get vaccinated early in the influenza season, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's a good idea 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 protect against the virus.
For More Information
For more information about the Rostros de la gripe educational initiative, visit www.rostrosdelagripe.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.LungUSA.org. The American Lung Association's Rostros de la gripe educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.
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 Charity Navigator Four Star Charity and 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.LungUSA.org.
SOURCE American Lung Association