ARLINGTON, MA--(Marketwire - September 29, 2009) - As millions of Massachusetts children and teenagers returned to school this month, at the start of a serious flu season, the Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC) has an important health message: "It's Up to You to Stop the Flu."

Funded by a U.S. Department of Homeland Security grant, this public information campaign provides ways to stay healthier, including:

--  Get the flu shot;
--  Wash your hands or sanitize often;
--  Sneeze or cough into a tissue or your sleeve;
--  Stay home when sick -- don't bring the flu bug to work or school.

"Massachusetts is approaching a difficult flu season, and school-aged individuals have been primarily affected with 75 percent of H1N1 flu cases reported in people age 25 and younger," said Christine Connolly Sharkey, Arlington Director of Health and Human Services and NERAC Pandemic Flu Subcommittee Chair. "Our goal is to reach as many residents in communities across Northeastern Massachusetts with this public information campaign's life-saving message."

Every year about 5,000 Massachusetts residents are hospitalized due to the seasonal flu. With 1,400 cases of the H1N1 flu already reported in the state this year, the risk of contracting one or both flu strains is even higher -- especially among school children. Reducing the risk of spreading the flu is key to stopping a wide range outbreak.

"H1N1 flu is caused by a new virus which was first recognized in April 2009 and spread quickly to many parts of the world," said Connolly Sharkey. "The steps to prevent H1N1 flu are the same steps that we take to prevent the seasonal flu."

The campaign, which launched earlier this month, includes an educational kit with a DVD of the campaign's TV PSA, a poster, and a PowerPoint presentation. The presentation is available upon request to schools. Students as well as their parents and teachers will see the campaign message through the TV PSA that is airing across the region, and on a transit poster that is on commuter rail lines, buses, and on platforms at several stations.

About The Northeast Homeland Security Regional Advisory Council (NERAC)

NERAC plans and carries out regional homeland security and emergency preparedness initiatives on behalf of 85 communities in northeastern Massachusetts. The council is comprised of 16 members representing 11 emergency management disciplines -- law enforcement, fire services, emergency management, emergency medical services, public health, hospitals, public safety communications, government administration, public works, regional public transit and corrections. For further information, visit or call 781-316-3170.

This document was prepared under a grant from FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Points of view or opinions expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of FEMA's National Preparedness Directorate or the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Contact Information: Contact: Amy Riemer Media Relations Specialist 978-475-4441