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American Lung Association Teams Up with Minneapolis and St. Paul Fire Departments to Issue a 'Healthy Challenge' to Encourage Vaccination Against Seasonal Influenza

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 General News J E 4
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MINNEAPOLIS and ST. PAUL, Minn., Oct. 13 -- In the spirit of “healthy competition,” the American Lung Association in Minnesota is teaming up with the Minneapolis and St. Paul Fire Departments to raise awareness about the seriousness of seasonal influenza and the importance of vaccination this year.

Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson and St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler will initiate an influenza vaccination “challenge” to get as many employees and firefighters immunized against seasonal influenza in their respective fire departments. The challenge will begin on October 13 during the first day of the St. Paul Fire Department vaccination clinic.

This “healthy competition” is conducted on behalf of the American Lung Association Faces of Influenza campaign, a multiyear public awareness initiative helping Americans put a “face” on this serious disease and recognize annual influenza immunization as an important preventive measure to protect themselves and their loved ones every year.

Health experts recommend annual influenza vaccination for nearly 250 million people in the U.S. Despite this recommendation, influenza immunization rates fall far short every year. Locally, between 32,000 to 129,000 Minneapolis/St. Paul area residents will suffer from influenza in an average year.

Minneapolis/St. Paul’s local “face” of influenza and mother of two, Linda DeLude, knows first hand how serious influenza can be. Linda’s husband, 44-year-old firefighter Barry DeLude, contracted influenza and sadly, he passed away from complications of the disease in February 2007. Linda continues to urge Minneapolis/St. Paul area residents to see themselves among the “faces” featured in the program and to get immunized.

“Barry was always healthy. We didn’t think to get him or the rest of the family vaccinated against influenza because no one had chronic illnesses,” Linda said. “I had to learn the hard way that influenza can affect anyone – not just people who are already sick. Since Barry’s death, I want to do everything I can to let others know how important it is to get vaccinated.”

Celebrities, health officials and everyday people have joined the Faces of Influenza initiative, sharing their personal stories about their experiences with the disease and encouraging influenza vaccination among recommended groups.

These “faces” include people who fall into one or more of the high-risk groups recommended for annual immunization by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza, along with its complications, is a serious respiratory illness. On average, 36,000 Americans die and about 226,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. every year. Vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent influenza and its complications.

Faces of Influenza Awareness Activities

The initiative also includes educational materials for consumers and health-care providers, as well as the national distribution of new television and radio public service announcements featuring Kristi Yamaguchi and the high-risk groups recommended for influenza immunization. The Lung Association has developed a Web site, www.facesofinfluenza.org, where consumers and health-care providers can find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the site can also view the photographs and stories featured in the Faces of Influenza Portrait Gallery, view the public service campaign and utilize the Lung Association’s http://www.flucliniclocator.org, the largest online directory of public influenza clinics.

About Influenza

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, 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. In most seasons, 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. 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. The Flu Clinic Locator remains active as long as public influenza immunization clinics are offered.

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.

For More Information

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 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or log onto www.lungusa.org. The American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza educational initiative is made possible through a collaboration with sanofi pasteur.

SOURCE The American Lung Association in Minnesota

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