In an effort to educate Detroit area residents about the importance of annual seasonal influenza vaccination the American Lung Association of Michigan is kicking-off the 2009-2010 Faces of Influenza initiative in the Ann Arbor/Detroit area by partnering with the Washtenaw Immunization Action Coalition (WIAC) to conduct two influenza panel discussions scheduled for September 28 and October 5. The meetings will address the latest flu statistics and benefits of vaccination, particularly high-risk groups.
Public health experts, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), recommend seasonal influenza vaccination as the first line of defense this year in protecting against the influenza virus.
The recent H1N1 outbreak is a strong reminder that influenza is not the common cold. It’s a serious respiratory illness. Each year, approximately 226,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die due to influenza-related complications.
The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign encourages local residents to see themselves and their loved ones among the many “faces” of influenza – people who fall into one or more target groups recommended for annual vaccination by the CDC.
WIAC Hosting Community Discussion Panel on Influenza
In support of the initiative, many community leaders including individuals from the Washtenaw County Health Department, and local physicians will serve as speakers at the seasonal influenza panel discussions. Additionally, Zack Yaksich, a local Detroit resident who lost his 5-year-old daughter, Alana, to complications from influenza will be in attendance to help reinforce that vaccination is the best protection available against the disease.
Since Alana’s death, Zack has joined the American Lung Association of Michigan’s Faces of Influenza program to educate others about the importance of annual influenza vaccination for the entire household and help prevent similar tragedies from striking other families.
“Parents need to know that it’s so important to get their family vaccinated against influenza every single year,” Zack Yaksich said.
Despite recommendations by health experts that more than four out of five Americans should be vaccinated against seasonal influenza annually, fewer than half actually do.
On average, between 47,500 and 190,000 Detroit area residents will suffer from seasonal influenza, yet immunization rates fall short each year.
Chances Are, We All Know “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, Olympic Gold Medalist figure skater, “Dancing with the Stars” winner and mother 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.
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 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 Flu Clinic Locator
In addition to this new campaign, the Lung Association continues to offer its Flu Clinic Locator as a public service. The Flu Clinic Locator is the largest online directory of public seasonal influenza vaccination clinics. By typing in their 5-digit ZIP code, site visitors can receive a list of immunization clinics in their area. Site visitors may also schedule appointment reminders and sign up to receive seasonal influenza news.
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.
Source: American Lung Association of Michigan