TAMPA, Fla., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- In an effort to educate all Tampa and St. Petersburg residents about the importance of annual influenza vaccination, the American Lung Association in Florida is kicking off the 2010-2011 Faces of Influenza initiative by issuing a "healthy challenge" to the Tampa and St. Petersburg Fire Departments to get as many firefighters vaccinated against influenza as possible this flu season.
Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward and St. Petersburg Fire Chief James Large will encourage their employees and firefighters to get vaccinated against influenza in their respective fire departments. The challenge will kick off on October 6 at the Gandy Bridge when both fire chiefs receive their influenza vaccination for this season. The winning fire department will be announced the week of November 1 during a closing ceremony.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the support of leading health experts, now recommends influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. Despite this recommendation, influenza vaccination rates fall far short every year. Locally, between 29,000 to 118,000 Tampa/St. Petersburg area residents will suffer from influenza in an average year.
"We all are 'faces' of influenza and it is the responsibility of every Tampa and St. Petersburg area resident to talk to their health care provider about vaccination," said Tampa Fire Chief Tom Forward.
Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza and its complications. This year, the seasonal influenza vaccine will include the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain, so only one vaccine will be needed.
"Many people are affected by influenza every year and don't realize that getting vaccinated is an easy way to protect their health, their family's health and the health of our community," said St. Petersburg Fire Chief James Large.
Get Vaccinated Against Influenza
Many community leaders, including the Tampa and St. Petersburg Fire Departments and Edward White Hospital, are partnering with the American Lung Association in Florida on its Faces of Influenza campaign to reinforce that vaccination is the best protection available against the disease.
"The spread of the H1N1 influenza virus last year highlighted the devastating impact influenza can have on our community," said Fadi Saba, MD, Chief of Staff at Edward White Hospital. "I get vaccinated against influenza every year and encourage my patients to get immunized annually to avoid the flu and its serious complications."
We All Are "Faces" of Influenza
The Faces of Influenza campaign, which includes expanded awareness initiatives nationally and in many major cities, supports the CDC's universal influenza immunization recommendation to vaccinate everyone 6 months of age and older.
Celebrities, health officials and everyday people have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign, sharing personal stories about their experiences with the disease and encouraging annual influenza vaccination.
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 prevent the tragedies they experienced from happening to other families.
Faces of Influenza Awareness Activities
The Faces of Influenza initiative also includes educational materials for the public and health care providers, as well as the national distribution of television and radio public service announcements. The Lung Association has developed a Web site, www.facesofinfluenza.org, where the public and health care providers can find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the site also can view the photographs and stories of the featured "faces" of influenza.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death, for you or someone with whom you come into contact. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza and its complications.
We all are "faces" of influenza and are at risk of contracting the virus. The CDC, with the support of leading health experts, now recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older be immunized. Vaccination is important for everyone in the U.S., however influenza immunization rates in the highest-risk groups fall far short of public health goals every year. Groups at higher risk of influenza infection or complications include: adults over 50 years of age; children 6 months-18 years of age; pregnant women; anyone with chronic health conditions, such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease and diabetes; and residents of long-term care facilities. The CDC also recommends annual immunization for caregivers and household contacts of these high-risk groups, such as relatives and health care providers.
You should be immunized as soon as vaccine is available in the late summer or early fall. If you didn't have a chance to obtain influenza vaccine early in the season, immunization throughout the season into the spring or as long as the influenza virus is in circulation is beneficial because in most seasons, influenza disease doesn't peak until that time. It only takes about two weeks for the vaccine to protect against the virus.
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 or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNG-USA (1-800-586-4872) or visit www.lungusa.org.
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.lungusa.org. The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.
SOURCE American Lung Association in Florida