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LHJ: As an athlete, you're in amazing shape. Why are you personally worried about the flu?
Kristi Yamaguchi: Well, getting vaccinated for the flu is something that I've done in my life as an athlete. My competitive season ran right through flu season and my mom was really on top of it back then. [She would say,] "Okay, you don't want to miss a competition because of the flu." So now, as a mom myself, I realize this is the easiest way for me to protect my family.
LHJ: Did you have your two daughters vaccinated?
KY: They have both been vaccinated. The CDC recommends that 4 out of 5 Americans be vaccinated a year, so I recommend it to everyone in my family -- definitely my parents who are around my kids a lot and my babysitter who's in close contact with them. You know, I try to encourage everyone but obviously, mostly the ones who are directly around my children.
LHJ: Did you get the vaccine when you were pregnant with your daughters?
KY: Yes, I did. The importance was enforced when, after the birth of our first daughter, my doctor said, "All right, you're not leaving the hospital until you get your flu shot." And I was like, "Oh, really? I'll be fine." And he said, "Well, it's not really you that's the issue, but your baby can't be immunized until she's 6 months old. You've basically got to create a cocoon around her to make sure you don't bring the virus home to her."
LHJ: You've been working with the American Lung Association's The Faces of Influenza campaign for three years now. Do you think that we're more aware of the flu than in the past?
KY: I think people are realizing that the flu is much more serious than just the common cold and that's really the goal of this campaign. It's not just the sniffles -- it can put you out for a week, two weeks. Close to 36,000 deaths are related to the flu. That's a high number that I don't think people realize. People can go to facesofinfluenza.org to get a lot more information. They can find out if they fall into the recommended category and can even find flu shot clinics near their home.
Originally published on LHJ.com, July 2009.