Surrounded by some of the most famous and dirtiest hands in Hollywood, Los Angeles County Public Health Officials and community leaders today unveiled an aggressive public education campaign aimed at getting residents to wash their hands to reduce the spread of seasonal flu and encourage pandemic flu preparedness. Public Health Officials made the announcement in the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, where hundreds of tourists visit daily and place their dirty hands inside the famous imprints of celebrities.
Staying healthy this flu season can be as simple as washing your hands, covering your cough and sneezes, not touching your hands to your face, nose or mouth, and getting a seasonal flu shot, said Jonathan Fielding, MD, MPH, Public Health Director and County Health Officer. This campaign carries simple and important messages – clean hands decrease your chance of catching the flu and can slow the spread of disease if and when we experience a pandemic.
Pandemic flu has occurred three times in the last century (1918, 1957 and 1968) and can take place in any season. On March 30, 2006 Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky signed Planning Resolutions detailing federal, state, and local shared and independent responsibilities for pandemic flu planning.
Although it is difficult to predict when the next pandemic will occur or how severe it will be, public education and outreach are critical to the County’s prevention efforts. Health experts predict an infection rate of 25 to 50 percent of the population, depending on the severity of the virus strain. Seasonal influenza, which occurs every year during the winter months and affects 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population, should still be treated with the same precautions, including good hand washing and annual vaccination.
The Clean Hands campaign will illustrate just how easy it is to transmit germs while going about a daily routine. These same precautions can reduce the risk of foodborne illness. The campaign will also show how easy it is to prevent catching the flu or other germs simply by washing or sanitizing your hands. The advertising portion of the campaign includes print, television and radio advertisements that are scheduled to launch in the coming weeks. Public service announcements are already being negotiated for broadcast placement.
Due to Los Angeles County’s diverse population, the Clean Hands campaign will be produced in 12 different languages and target 13 markets, including Hispanic, Asian, Russian, Armenian, Arabic, African, American, GLBT and people with disabilities. The campaign will also focus on reaching businesses,
schools, faith-based and other community-based organizations, individuals and families.
On average 36,000 Americans die each year from the complications of seasonal flu, added Dr. Fielding. Los Angeles County consists of many diverse communities that are susceptible and it is critical we reach every one and educate them about how to protect their families and stay healthy.
As part of the kick-off event, a black light demonstration showed how dirty some of the celebrity hand impressions are and how easily germs can be transmitted from person to person. The County provided a hand sanitizing station for tourists to use so they can enjoy the attraction without worrying about catching the flu.
The Clean Hands public education and outreach campaign runs through April 2007, and is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For more information, or to download brochures, please visit the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health’s web site at: www.lapublichealth.org
The Department of Public Health is committed to protecting and improving the health of the nearly 10 million residents of Los Angeles County. Through a variety of programs, community partnerships and services, Public Health oversees environmental health, disease control, and community and family health. Public Health comprises more than 4,000 employees and an annual budget exceeding $700 million.