WASHINGTON, Dec. 6, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Recommendations about influenza vaccination stress that everyone 6 months of age and older should be vaccinated against influenza annually. The American Lung Association is helping to raise awareness that it's more important than ever for Americans to understand the seriousness of the disease and the importance of vaccination in support of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), December 5-11, 2010.
NIVW highlights the importance of annual influenza vaccination after the holiday season into January and beyond.
Influenza and its complications cause an average of 226,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. every year and, depending on virus severity during the influenza season, anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths. Despite the updated vaccination recommendations by national health experts, fewer than half of the population actually gets vaccinated.
"You are putting your family at risk by not getting everyone 6 months of age or older vaccinated," said Norman Edelman, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. "There is ample supply of vaccine to immunize each member of your family against influenza, and you will only need one shot as the H1N1 strain from 2009 is included in this year's vaccine."
The American Lung Association also is helping to spread the word about the importance of influenza vaccination through its Faces of Influenza campaign. This multi-media national and regional awareness program is designed to educate the public about this serious disease and encourage annual influenza immunization.
Olympic Gold Medalist, former "Dancing with the Stars" winner and Faces of Influenza spokesperson Kristi Yamaguchi is joined by other celebrities, health officials and everyday people across the country as they share their personal experiences with influenza disease and encourage annual influenza vaccination.
"I get my two girls, my husband and the babysitters immunized," said Yamaguchi. "At my house, I am the family's chief medical officer, so everyone -- and I mean everyone -- gets immunized against the flu each year."
This year, NIVW is scheduled for December 5-11. The CDC has designated the following days to emphasize the importance of influenza vaccination among certain populations:
- Monday, December 6: Family Vaccination Day
- Tuesday, December 7: Chronic Conditions Day
- Wednesday, December 8: Employee Health Day
- Thursday, December 9: Older Adults Vaccination Day
- Friday, December 10: Young Adult Vaccination Day
Along with deputy director of the CDC's influenza division, Daniel Jernigan, MD, MPH, Kristi will be participating in satellite media interviews on Thursday, December 9, Older Adult Vaccination Day, to help reinforce that influenza is a serious health threat for individuals in this population, especially those over the age of 65.
Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S., 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 226,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications. Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. Combined with pneumonia, influenza is the nation's eighth leading cause of death. Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza and its complications.
Influenza immunization should begin as soon as vaccine becomes available in the late summer or early fall. However, immunization after this time can still be beneficial because in most seasons, flu activity doesn't peak until winter or early spring. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's a good idea to get vaccinated. For most adults, the vaccine can help protect against influenza within two weeks.
We All Are "Faces" of Influenza
The American Lung Association has revised the program's messages to stress that everyone is a "face" of influenza and should be vaccinated this and every year.
The CDC's new universal influenza vaccination recommendation includes everyone 6 months of age and older. The CDC also stresses that vaccination is especially important for Americans who have a higher risk for developing complications associated with the disease, which can include hospitalization and even death. Groups at high risk include: adults over 50 years of age; pregnant women; children 6 months-18 years of age; 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. The best way to help protect those who cannot receive the vaccine, such as those younger than 6 months, is to get vaccinated and help avoid spreading the virus.
The Lung Association is working with 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, now in its fifth year, uses widespread awareness activities that target both national and regional locations. The program features celebrity and everyday spokespersons who conduct educational outreach across the U.S.
Mass media outreach initiatives, broadcast and print public service announcement campaigns and educational materials for both consumers and health care providers are major aspects of the program. To deepen the program's reach, the Lung Association also has forged community awareness partnerships and grassroots programming in cities across the country, helping to ensure influenza immunization messages reach the public close to home.
A comprehensive website, www.facesofinfluenza.org, also is available for consumers and health care providers to 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.
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.
For More Information
For more information about the Faces of Influenza educational initiative, visit www.facesofinfluenza.org. The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.
SOURCE American Lung Association