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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.
The American Lung Association is relaunching the national Faces of Influenza initiative to educate the public about the CDCs 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 and actress 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; thats why we are all immunized me, my husband and my three young sons, says 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, says Norman H. Edelman, MD, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. Its 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.
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 nations 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 doesnt peak until winter or early spring. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, its a good idea to get vaccinated. For most adults, the vaccine can help protect against influenza within two weeks.
The American Lung Association has revised the programs messages to stress that everyone is a face of influenza and should be vaccinated this and every year.
The CDCs 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 healthcare 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.