HOUSTON, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- The American Lung Association serving the Houston area supports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), January 10-16, 2010, which highlights the importance of annual influenza vaccination after the holiday season into January and beyond.
The recent influenza A (H1N1) virus outbreak is a strong reminder that influenza is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. Each year approximately 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die due to seasonal influenza and its related complications.
The American Lung Association serving the Houston area is dedicated to raising awareness about the importance of annual influenza vaccination through its Faces of Influenza campaign. This educational campaign is designed to help Houston-area residents see themselves among the many "faces" of influenza – people who fall into one or more target groups recommended for annual vaccination by the CDC – and recognize immunization as a safe and effective way to help protect themselves and their families against influenza.
Despite recommendations by national health experts that more than four out of five Americans should be vaccinated against influenza annually, fewer than half actually are. Locally, between 29,000 and 118,000 Houston-area residents will suffer from influenza in an average year.
Local mother and "face" of influenza Daina Maxwell experienced firsthand the seriousness of influenza when her 8-year-old daughter Dez'Arae was hospitalized due to complications from influenza.
Dez'Arae was diagnosed with influenza in March 2007 – a time when most people are looking forward to the warm summer weather, not getting sick. Dez'Arae had to be rushed to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with encephalitis, swelling of the brain that can be caused by influenza. Dez'Arae was hospitalized for several weeks and had to relearn basic skills, including how to walk.
Daina has joined the Faces of Influenza campaign in supporting NIVW to help other families avoid similar tragedies by sharing her story.
"I never knew how serious influenza was until Dez'Arae got it. I am so lucky to still have her here, and I am not willing to take any more chances," Daina said. "I wouldn't want any mother to go through what I went through, so I've joined the American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza campaign to let other families know how important it is to get vaccinated every year."
Seasonal influenza typically does not peak until as late as February or March, and with the A (H1N1) virus continuing to circulate across the United States, vaccination against both viruses is recommended and beneficial throughout the winter months.
NIVW is scheduled for January 10-16. This year, the CDC designated the following days to emphasize the importance of influenza awareness for high-risk populations most susceptible to complications from the disease:
- Monday, January 11: Healthcare Worker Vaccination Day
- Tuesday, January 12: Chronic Health Conditions Vaccination Day
- Wednesday, January 13: Children and Family Vaccination Day
- Thursday, January 14: Young Adult Vaccination Day
- Friday, January 15: Seniors' Vaccination Day
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 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, 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 and view the public service campaign.
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 help 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 disease (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 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.lungusa.org. The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.
Michelle R. Bernth
SOURCE American Lung Association Serving the Houston Area