October 29, 2014

Sisters of Charity Health System supports “Focus On Flu” campaign

At a time when Americans are fixated on the speculative threat of Ebola, Cleveland’s health care community wants to remind people to protect themselves against a tangible threat that kills 3,000 to 49,000 Americans annually—influenza.

The Focus On Flu campaign is supported by The City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Department of Public Health, the Sisters of Charity Health System, Cleveland Clinic, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, The MetroHealth System and University Hospitals (UH). It is designed to inform residents about the real dangers of influenza, the importance of flu vaccinations and where to find flu shots or the nasal spray vaccine.

“We are all walking through a very difficult time and we know that Ebola is a very dangerous disease. However, there are many other infectious diseases and these are treatable and preventable. That is why I am asking each of you, if you have not yet, go and get your flu shot today,” said Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson. “Do your part!”

The best protection against the flu is vaccination. The CDC recommends an annual flu shot for everyone six months of age and older.

“Flu viruses are constantly changing. Each flu season, different flu viruses can spread, and they can affect people differently based on differences in the immune system. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu,” said Terrence P. Kessler, president and CEO of the Sisters of Charity Health System. “Join us in sharing the Focus On Flu message with your friends, family and neighbors. Help make sure all Clevelanders understand the dangers of influenza and the importance of flu vaccinations and frequent handwashing!”

The Focus On Flu website (www.FocusOnFlu.org) will list local flu clinics being provided by each of the campaign’s partners, including free and reduced-cost vaccinations, in addition to important links and information about influenza.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity is still low for the 2014-2015 flu season, but flu cases often begin to increase in October and November, peaking in December, January and February. While each flu season is different and difficult to predict, over the last 30 years flu-associated deaths in the U.S. ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 people. The 2009-10 flu season, which included an outbreak of the H1N1 strain, resulted in 54,000 deaths from flu and pneumonia.

“Nearly 200,000 Americans are hospitalized each year because of the flu and less than half of all Americans get vaccinated. We need to protect our community against the highly contagious influenza virus,” said Toby Cosgrove, M.D., president and CEO, Cleveland Clinic. “As we prepare for a possible, but unlikely Ebola outbreak, we need to prevent the flu and flu-like symptoms, which will go a long way toward reducing public concern.”

In addition to getting vaccinated, preventive actions also can reduce the spread of influenza: Wash your hands often. Avoid close contact with sick people. Stay home from work or school if you are sick with the flu. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

“We need everyone in our community to help prevent the spread of flu,” said Akram Boutros, M.D., president and CEO of The MetroHealth System. “Coughing into your sleeve and constantly washing your hands helps, but the best way to avoid getting flu is to get flu vaccine now. We’d like to see the winter of 2014-15 become the healthiest on record.”

Terry Allan, Health Commissioner at the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, added, “High flu vaccination rates reduce worker absenteeism and missed school days. So getting vaccinated helps to sustain the productivity of our community. Get your flu shot today and be part of the solution.”

As of mid-August, the CDC reported that seven influenza vaccine manufacturers are projecting that as many as 151 million to 156 million doses of influenza vaccine will be available for use in the United States during the 2014-2015 influenza season. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu.

“Getting a flu shot is one of the best things that you can do for your health,” said Michael Anderson, M.D., chief medical officer of University Hospitals Case Medical Center. “It not only offers personal protection to an individual, it also helps stop the spread of the flu to other people—family members, friends, co-workers. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting a flu shot.”

Watch a 30-second public service announcement about the the Focus On Flu campaign. 

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From its Cleveland headquarters, the Sisters of Charity Health System provides oversight, leadership and strategic direction to more than 20 organizations responding to community needs in Canton and Cleveland, Ohio, and South Carolina.

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