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Celebrity Health: Kristi Yamaguchi

Olympic medalist, Kristi Yamaguchi, speaks out about the dangers of influenza

As an Olympic gold medalist figure skater, author, wife, mother and philanthropist, the always busy Kristi Yamaguchi knows that to keep your body healthy it’s important to rest, eat a well balanced diet and exercise. And now she makes sure that she and her family always get vaccinated against influenza, a serious respiratory illness that can result in 226,000 hospitalizations each year and between 3,000 and 49,000 deaths.

“Being a skater, I was skating in competitions through flu season so we had to be protected,” she says. “I remember having the flu once when I was a teenager, but my mom was always very good at getting us vaccinated.”

Yamaguchi is now a spokesperson for the American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza initiative that provides information and stories of those who have been affected by the virus. There’s Linda DeLude’s husband, Barry, who was her high school sweetheart, her best friend, the father of her 2 sons, and the man she called her soul mate. He also was a firefighter in the Minneapolis Fire Department for 20 years. Unfortunately he contracted the virus and died from the disease a few days after his trip to the hospital. And there’s the Jackson family who lost their three-month old son to the illness.

Along with her mom Carole, Yamaguchi is encouraging others to get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), everyone six months of age or older should get an annual influenza vaccination, but less than half of the U.S. population actually do so.

“The vaccination is a family issue and now that I’m a mom, it’s even more important to look after my family’s health,” says Yamaguchi, who is mom to daughters Keara and Emma and married to professional hockey player Bret Hedican.. “And it’s important to make sure you look after your parents too. There are so many other issues that families need to deal with, so why not protect against the flu and have one less thing to worry about.”

Everyone is at risk of contracting and spreading influenza and those who do contract it are at risk for developing serious complications. Vaccinations are recommended in late summer or early fall, but even in the middle of winter it’s still beneficial to get vaccinated. During many flu seasons, influenza activity doesn’t peak until winter or early spring. In fact, virus activity peaked in February or later in approximately half of the past 35 flu seasons.

You can view photographs and other stories of “faces” of influenza.For more information, visit www.facesofinfluenza.org.

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