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Launch of New Educational Campaign, Spread the Word - NOT the Flu!, Aims to Highlight Importance of Influenza Vaccination

- Coalition of forces join to launch educational program to help students

make a difference in influenza prevention - Detailed curriculum teaches students about influenza and empowers them to

be ambassadors of health at home and in their community

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Sept. 26 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Spread the Word - NOT the Flu! is a new educational program designed to teach students and their families about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of receiving an annual vaccination. Through this program, children can make a difference by helping their families and communities learn about influenza prevention.

Spread the Word - NOT the Flu! is a national program launched today by Novartis Vaccines, together with Families Fighting Flu, Inc, a non-profit organization that provides support to all families affected by childhood influenza-related deaths, and Weekly Reader Corporation Custom Publishing. The program aims to help communities prepare for the 2007-2008 influenza season and reduce the burden associated with annual influenza infections.

"Influenza does not discriminate, so it is imperative that people of all ages are aware of the steps one can take to prevent the spread of this disease," said Theodore F. Tsai MD, MPH, FIDSA Medical Director, North America Novartis Vaccines. "This is why we are proud to sponsor this educational program specifically geared toward teaching students about influenza and encouraging them to share their knowledge with their family to help protect their community this influenza season."

Spread the Word - NOT the Flu! consists of a detailed curriculum that teaches students about influenza facts, such as how the virus spreads, what its symptoms are, who is at risk for potentially serious complications and how to help prevent the spread of influenza. This program can be accessed at

Students are encouraged to put their key learnings into practice by entering the "Influenza Ambassador Award Contest" where they will design a Public Service Announcement (PSA) advertisement to educate the public about the dangers of contracting influenza and explain how everyone can help prevent its spread. Upon entering the contest, students will be eligible to win a laptop computer and/or a college scholarship of up to $15,000.

"Most people don't realize that influenza is a highly contagious, serious condition that can affect us all, especially children," said, Dr. Andrew Eisenberg M.D., MHA, FAAFP, Associate Professor School of Rural Public Health, Texas A&M University. "In fact, some children are at an increased risk of contracting influenza, and in effect, are at higher risk for developing serious complications, such as pneumonia, which can eventually lead to death. For this reason, I encourage parents to get their children and themselves vaccinated each and every year."

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend influenza vaccination for approximately 218 million people, however, the number of people who actually get vaccinated is much lower. Unfortunately, many people may underestimate the dangers of influenza and the safety of vaccination, so there continues to be a critical need for public education.

About Influenza

Influenza can lead to serious complications, such as pneumonia and dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Influenza can easily spread from person to person. In fact, adults can spread the influenza virus beginning one day before they feel sick and continue to be contagious for five days after symptoms start.

Unlike the common cold, influenza, or "the flu," is a contagious respiratory disease with potentially serious complications. An average of 36,000 US residents die each year from influenza and its complications, which is more than double the 17,000 Americans who die annually from AIDS, similar to the 42,000 Americans who die each year from breast cancer, and half the 73,000 Americans who die annually of diabetes and its complications. Over the past four influenza seasons, more than 300 children in the US have died from influenza and its complications. Further, influenza causes children to miss approximately 38 million school days in the US annually; and for every three school days that are missed by a child with influenza, a parent misses almost one workday, which may result in lost productivity.

Influenza vaccination is recommended for people, including school-age children, who want to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or transmitting influenza to others should they become infected. Getting vaccinated against influenza helps protect those around you, including those who may be at higher risk for complications. The elderly and young children are just two of the groups considered at increased risk for complications from influenza. Influenza vaccination can be given to anyone over the age of six months (influenza vaccines are not currently approved for children under six months of age).

Although October and November are the recommended months for vaccination, a vaccination given later in the season (December through March) can still help protect you from influenza.

For more information, please visit

About Novartis

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics is a division of Novartis focused on the development of preventive treatments. The division has two businesses: Novartis Vaccines and Chiron. Novartis Vaccines is the world's fifth-largest vaccines manufacturer and second-largest supplier of flu vaccines in the US. The division's products also include meningococcal, pediatric and travel vaccines. Chiron, the blood testing and molecular diagnostics business, is dedicated to preventing the spread of infectious diseases through the development of novel blood-screening tools that protect the world's blood supply.

Novartis AG (NYSE: NVS) is a world leader in offering medicines to protect health, cure disease and improve well-being. Our goal is to discover, develop and successfully market innovative products to treat patients, ease suffering and enhance the quality of life. We are strengthening our medicine-based portfolio, which is focused on strategic growth platforms in innovation-driven pharmaceuticals, high-quality and low-cost generics, human vaccines and leading self-medication OTC brands. Novartis is the only company with leadership positions in these areas. In 2006, the Group's businesses achieved net sales of USD 37.0 billion and net income of USD 7.2 billion. Approximately USD 5.4 billion was invested in R&D. Headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, Novartis Group companies employ more than 100,000 associates and operate in over 140 countries around the world. For more information, please visit

Novartis Media Relations

Beth Birke

Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics

Global Communications


e-mail: or

SOURCE Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics
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