Citi: Flu season to peak later in 2012 than it did last year

NEW YORK — Citi Investment Research & Analysis is projecting that the peak of flu season may occur beyond last season's peak of January/February, a factor that may place a negative drag on retail same-store sales results over first quarter 2012.

"Flu activity in week 44 (the week ended Nov. 5) decreased significantly year over year and also declined versus last week," wrote Citi analyst Deborah Weinswig in a research note earlier this week. "Due to the weak early season result, we believe the 2011-2012 flu season could peak later than 2010-2011's January/February peak, which will likely have a negative impact on Rx same-store sales during the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012," she noted. "In addition, we believe that increased competition among the drug stores, supermarkets and discounters has resulted in lower flu vaccination numbers at each retailer versus last year. We will continue to monitor this season's flu numbers and gauge its impact on the drug stores' same-store sales results."

Season-to-date through week 44, the number of positive reports of influenza as a percentage of total cases tested was 0.8%, versus 3.9% during the same week-ending date last year (62 cases-to-date TY vs. 395 LY). And the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network reported that 1.3% of patient visits in week 44 were due to ILI, which is below the national baseline of 2.4%, above the 1.2% reported last week, and in line with the 1.3% reported during the same week-ending date last year. 

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