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Houston Mother Who Nearly Lost Her Daughter to Influenza Joins American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza Campaign to Promote Annual Vaccination
Date:12/8/2008

American Lung Association Supports National Influenza Vaccination Week (December 8-14); Urges Immunization Throughout the Winter and Spring

HOUSTON, Dec. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Local mother Daina Maxwell has joined the American Lung Association of the Central States to bring Faces of Influenza, a national educational campaign, to the Houston area. Maxwell's 8-year-old daughter Dez'Arae contracted influenza in March 2007, and was diagnosed with encephalitis as a result of the disease.

"I never knew how serious influenza was until Dez'Arae got it," said Maxwell. "My baby and I get our flu shot every year now."

Daina's 8-year-old daughter Dez'Arae was diagnosed with influenza in March 2007 - a time when most people are looking forward to the warm summer weather, not getting sick. Dez'Arae had to be rushed to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with encephalitis, swelling of the brain that can be caused by influenza. Dez'Arae was hospitalized for several weeks and had to relearn basic skills, including how to walk.

The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza program is a multiyear public awareness initiative to help 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.

"I wouldn't want any mother to go through what I went through, so I've joined the program to let other families know how important it is to get an annual vaccination," said Maxwell.

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 97,681 and 390,726 Houston area residents will suffer from influenza in an average year.

Maxwell urges Houston area residents to see themselves among the "faces" of influenza featured in the program and to get immunized. These "faces" include people who fall into one or more of the target 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.

"Despite serious health risks associated with influenza, many people, including children 6 months through 18 years of age, those 50 years of age and older and people with chronic health problems are not getting immunized," said Norman Edelman, MD, Chief Medical Officer of the American Lung Association. "More than 4 out of 5 Americans should be vaccinated every year, which means it's likely each one of us knows someone whose well-being, good health or life depends on getting an influenza immunization each and every year."

The Lung Association is also working with mothers across the country who lost children to influenza. These mothers, as well as others involved in the program, have joined the Faces of Influenza campaign to help families avoid the tragedy they experienced.

On a national level, Olympic Gold Medal figure skater, most recent "Dancing with the Stars" winner and mother Kristi Yamaguchi is the spokesperson for the Faces of Influenza campaign. Other celebrity "faces" featured are: 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; Olympic Gold Medalist Vonetta Flowers; and actor Peter Gallagher, who starred in FOX's The OC.

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 target 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 Flu Clinic Locator, 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 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 of the Central States

The American Lung Association of the Central States is dedicated to the prevention, control and cure of lung disease, the third leading cause of death in the United States. The organization works to prevent, control and cure lung diseases such as asthma, lung cancer, emphysema, chronic bronchitis, influenza and pneumonia, and we fight for tobacco control and clean air through education, research and advocacy. The American Lung Association of the Central States serves the communities of Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Texas.

About the American Lung Association

Beginning our second century, the American Lung Association is the leading organization working to prevent lung disease and promote lung health. Lung disease death rates continue to increase while other leading causes of death have declined. The American Lung Association funds vital research on the causes of and treatments for lung disease. With the generous support of the public, the American Lung Association is "Fighting for Air."

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.


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SOURCE The American Lung Association
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