Actress Maria Canals Barrera joined the American Lung Association's Rostros de la Gripe campaign to encourage Hispanics to protect themselves, their families and their communities by getting vaccinated against influenza.
Hispanics are hit particularly hard by influenza, with up to 9.5 million contracting the flu in an average year, according to the campaign. Higher rates of certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma and diabetes increase the risk of complications from the disease.
The Rostros de la Gripe campaign is meant to encourage Hispanics to get flu shots, because the vaccination rate among Hispanics remains alarmingly low.
Influenza is a respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even fatality, for patients or someone with whom they come into contact. On average, each year in the U.S., influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people, according to the Rostros de la Gripe campaign.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with other leading health experts, recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older be immunized annually. Vaccination is reportedly safe and believed to be effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza.
HispanicBusiness.com spoke to both Ms. Canals Barrera and Dr. Luis Rodriguez, chief of the Department of Pediatrics at Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the associate professor of pediatrics, NYU School of Medicine.
Ms. Canals Barrera starred in two Disney Channel series -- "Wizards of Waverly Place" with Selena Gomez and "Camp Rock" with Demi Lovato.
Ms. Canals Barrera and Dr. Rodriguez discussed the campaign and influenza.
Q&A with Maria Canals Barrera
HispanicBusiness.com: What is the main mission of the Rostros de la Gripe campaign?
MCB: Rostros de la Gripe is a national educational awareness initiative of the American Lung Association in collaboration with Sanofi Pasteur that educates Hispanic-Americans about the seriousness of influenza and the importance of annual vaccination for everyone 6 month of age and older. With more than 50 million Hispanic Americans recommended for annual vaccination, families need to get immunized to help protect themselves against the flu.
HispanicBusiness.com: Why did you decide to join the campaign?
Maria Canals Barrera: I joined the Rostros de la Gripe campaign to encourage families to help protect themselves and their community by getting vaccinated against the flu every year. This issue is important to me because as a mother, I am committed to helping protect my family from influenza because it can cause severe complications and even death. I got vaccinated against the flu this year and also made sure my two young daughters got their flu shots as well. We intend to continue getting immunized every year.
HB: Have you, or someone in your family suffered from influenza?
MCB: Fortunately, my family has not been affected by influenza. However, Hispanics are at higher risk of developing complications from influenza due to higher rates of certain chronic diseases like asthma and diabetes, making vaccination among the Hispanic population that much more important. Vaccination is safe and effective and the best way to help prevent influenza, as we are all at risk for contracting and spreading this serious disease to others who may be even more vulnerable. That?s why the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated each and every year.
HB: As a well-known actress, do you feel a responsibility to share this information with the Hispanic community?
MCB: Health is important to me, so I strive to help educate the Hispanic community about important issues such as influenza and encourage families to stay healthy and strong in their community through annual influenza vaccination. By joining the Rostros de la Gripe campaign, I have joined other "faces" of influenza -- many of whom have been tragically affected by the disease -- to help raise awareness about the seriousness of this disease. As a mother, their stories really hit home, and I encourage other families to learn more about influenza and vaccination to help prevent these kinds of tragedies.
HB: What other projects do you have in the works -- acting related or community related?
MCB: My next project is the "Wizards of Waverly Place" one-hour television reunion special. The Russo family goes to Tuscany, Italy. It will air on Disney Channel early 2013.
HB: Is there anything else you would like to add?
MCB: I urge your readers to visit www.rostrosdelagripe.org to learn more about influenza. Influenza is serious and vaccination is safe and effective, and the best way to help prevent influenza. With vaccination options available for every age group -- children, adults and seniors -- people should talk to their health-care provider about the vaccine option that's right for them and their families this influenza season.
Q&A with Dr. Luis Rodriguez
HispanicBusiness.com: What is influenza?
Luis Rodriguez: Influenza is a serious respiratory illness that is easily spread and can lead to severe complications, even death. Influenza and its complications result in an estimated 226,000 hospitalizations in the U.S. each year.
HB: Have you, or someone in your family suffered from influenza?
HB: Why are Hispanics, specifically, so at risk to influenza?
LR: Hispanics in the U.S. are at higher risk of developing complications from influenza due to higher incidences of certain chronic medical conditions like asthma and diabetes. According to the CDC, up to 9.5 million Hispanic-Americans will suffer from the flu in an average year. Yet, vaccination rates for this community remain seriously low. In fact, only 40 percent of Hispanics 6 months of age and older received their annual influenza vaccination last year.
HB: What preventive measures can people take to help ensure they don't contract this illness?
LR: Vaccination is the best protection available against the flu. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older be immunized every year. Parents need to know that children 6 months through 8 years of age who have not previously received two doses of influenza vaccine may require two doses of vaccine for this flu season. They should consult their health-care provider for more information about immunization for their children.
HB: What are you hoping this campaign accomplishes?
LR: As a practicing physician, I see many "faces" of influenza -- people who should be immunized against influenza each year. I get vaccinated against the flu every year and encourage my patients to get immunized annually to avoid the flu and its serious complications. I hope that, through this campaign, we are able to educate the Hispanic community about the seriousness of influenza and importance of annual vaccination.
HB: What's the biggest misconception about influenza?
LR: Some people may feel that once flu season appears it is too late to get vaccinated against the flu, but if you didn't have a chance to obtain influenza vaccine early in the influenza season, immunization through the winter and even into the spring is beneficial. In fact, as long as influenza viruses are in circulation, it's a good idea to get vaccinated. This is because, in many seasons, influenza activity doesn?t peak until winter or early spring.