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Families have vaccine options to help prevent seasonal influenza

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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 in contact. In fact, combined with pneumonia, influenza is the nation’s ninth leading cause of death.

That’s why the American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign wants Texas families to know that vaccination is the best way to help prevent influenza and that influenza vaccine options are available for children, adults and seniors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated this and every year. Despite this recommendation, vaccination rates remain well below public health goals. In fact, fewer than half of the 300 million Americans recommended for immunization are actually getting vaccinated, that means too many of us remain unprotected.

Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

Children Need Extra Protection: Parents need to know that children 6 months through 8 years of age receiving a flu shot for the first time need two doses approximately one month apart for optimal protection. Children who receive only the first shot remain at risk for contracting influenza; both doses are needed to protect them as much as possible against this potentially deadly virus.

We All Are “Faces” of Influenza: The Faces of Influenza campaign is designed to put a “face” on influenza, a potentially deadly disease, and encourage vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older – each and every year.  The campaign includes national awareness initiatives, and 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 Faces of Influenza, 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.

About Seasonal 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. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza.

We all are “faces” of influenza and are at risk of contracting the virus. The CDC, with the support of leading health experts, recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older be immunized.

For groups at higher risk of developing influenza-related complications, vaccination is especially important. These include: adults over 50 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. Unfortunately, influenza immunization rates in the highest-risk groups fall far short of public health goals every year.

You should be immunized as soon as vaccine is available. If you didn’t have a chance to obtain influenza vaccine early in the influenza season, immunization into the spring or as long as the influenza virus is in circulation is beneficial. This is because in most seasons, influenza 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. It only takes about two weeks for the vaccine to protect against the virus.

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 800-LUNGUSA or log onto www.breathehealthy.org. The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur.

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