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Healthy challenge between local fire departments at 2010-2011 influenza season in Minneapolis

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness disease
Firefighters should get safe from the deadly effects of influenza virus by getting properly immunized

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 an effort to educate all Minneapolis/St. Paul area residents about the importance of annual seasonal influenza vaccination, the American Lung Association of Minnesota is kicking off the 2010-2011 Faces of Influenza initiative in Minneapolis/St. Paul by issuing a "healthy challenge" between the Minneapolis and St. Paul Fire Departments for the second year to get as many firefighters vaccinated against influenza as possible this flu season.

Minneapolis Fire Chief Alex Jackson and St. Paul Fire Chief Tim Butler will encourage their employees and firefighters to get vaccinated against influenza in their respective fire departments. The challenge will begin on September 27, when the first vaccination clinic in the St. Paul Fire Department will take place. The winner will be announced the week of October 25 during a closing ceremony.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with the support of leading health experts, now recommends influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older. Locally, between 32,000 to 129,000 Minneapolis/St. Paul-area residents will suffer from influenza in an average year.

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. Each year in the U.S., on average, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.

"We all are 'faces' of influenza and it is the responsibility of every Minneapolis/St. Paul resident to talk to your health care provider about vaccination," said Cynthia Piette, American Lung Association of Minnesota. "Many people are affected by seasonal influenza every year and don't realize that getting vaccinated is an easy way to protect their health, their family's health and the health of our community."

The American Lung Association's Faces of Influenza campaign encourages local residents to see themselves and their loved ones among the many "faces" of influenza people 6 months of age and older who should be immunized against influenza this and every year.

Proper vaccination at proper time prevents the effects of influenza virus

Vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza and its complications. This year, the seasonal influenza vaccine includes the 2009 pandemic H1N1 strain, so only one influenza vaccination is needed.

Get vaccinated against seasonal influenza

Many community leaders, including the Minneapolis and St. Paul Fire Departments, continue to partner with the American Lung Association of Minnesota's Faces of Influenza campaign to reinforce that vaccination is the best protection available against the disease.

They are also joined by Linda DeLude, who knows first hand how serious influenza can be. Linda's husband, 44-year-old Minneapolis firefighter Barry DeLude, contracted influenza and sadly passed away from complications of the disease in 2007. Linda continues to urge all Minneapolis/St. Paul residents to get immunized.

"Barry was always healthy. I had to learn the hard way that influenza can affect anyone – not just people who are already sick," Linda said. "Since Barry's death, I want to do everything I can to let others know how important it is to get vaccinated."

Proper vacconation is a must to keep away from influenza
Vaccination is safe and effective in warding off the ill effects of influenza

We all are "faces" of influenza

The Faces of Influenza campaign, which includes expanded awareness initiatives nationally and in many major cities, 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 the Faces of Influenza campaign, 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.

Faces of influenza awareness activities

The Faces of Influenza initiative also includes educational materials for the public and health care providers, as well as the national distribution of television and radio public service announcements. The Lung Association has developed a Web site faces of influenza, where the public and health care providers can find more information about influenza and the importance of immunization. Visitors to the site also can view the photographs and stories of the featured "faces" of influenza.

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