American Lung Association Urges Everyone 6 Months of Age and Older to Get an Annual Influenza Vaccination per New Federal Recommendations

September 28, 2010

WASHINGTON, Sept. 28 /PRNewswire/ — Now every American 6 months of age and older is recommended to receive an annual influenza immunization, according to new recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although it is early in the season, influenza cases have already been detected in the U.S. The best way to help protect yourself against influenza and its complications is to get vaccinated.

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The American Lung Association is relaunching the national Faces of Influenza initiative to educate the public about the CDC’s new “universal” influenza recommendations. Faces of Influenza is a multi-media national and regional awareness program, in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur, which is designed to educate the public about this serious disease and encourage annual influenza immunization. The initiative is being spearheaded by national spokesperson, actress and mother of three children, Julie Bowen, who joins other celebrities, health officials and everyday people across the country as they share their personal experiences with influenza disease and encourage annual influenza vaccination.

“As a busy, working mother, I want to do everything I can to keep my family healthy; that’s why we are all immunized – me, my husband and my three young sons,” said Julie Bowen. “Leading health experts have made it abundantly clear that nearly everyone is recommended to get vaccinated, and vaccine is widely available, so there is no reason not to protect yourself.”

The 2010-2011 seasonal influenza vaccine includes the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza strain, so unlike last year when two vaccines were required, only one influenza vaccine is needed this season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will help protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.

“The influenza virus changes from year to year, and this year the early reports show both the H1N1 virus and a new strain of the H3N2 virus, which are new to the vaccine, are already in circulation,” said Norman H. Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. “It’s important that you get vaccinated every year to best protect yourself. Hygiene measures such as washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes; and staying home from school or work when sick can be helpful in preventing the spread of disease, but vaccination is the best way to help prevent influenza and its complications.”

About Influenza

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Each year in the U.S. on average, 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 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; and 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 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.

    CONTACT:       Mary Havell

SOURCE American Lung Association

Source: newswire

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