HEALTH

Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, others, criticize states commitment to smoking cessation

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and other advocacy groups last week released a report claiming that states are spending only "a miniscule portion" of their tobacco revenues to fight tobacco use. "The states have failed to reverse deep cuts to tobacco prevention and cessation programs that have undermined the nation’s efforts to reduce tobacco use," the advocacy groups stated. 

According to the report, states will collect $25.7 billion in revenue over fiscal 2013 from the tobacco settlement and tobacco taxes, but will spend only 1.8% of it, or $459.5 million, on programs to prevent kids from smoking and help smokers quit.  

The report was issued by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, American Lung Association, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights.

The report also claimed that states have failed to reverse deep cuts that reduced tobacco prevention funding by 36%, or $260.5 million, from FY 2008 to FY 2012. Funding this year is essentially flat with the $456.7 million budgeted last year, the groups reported. Only two states — Alaska and North Dakota — currently fund tobacco prevention programs at a level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which amounts to $3.7 billion nationwide. Only three other states — Delaware, Wyoming and Hawaii — provide even half of the CDC-recommended funding. 

"As the nation implements healthcare reform, the states are missing a golden opportunity to reduce tobacco-related healthcare costs, which total $96 billion a year in the United States," the groups stated. "There is growing evidence that tobacco prevention programs save lives and save money by reducing healthcare costs. One recent study found that Washington state saved more than $5 in tobacco-related hospitalization costs for every $1 spent during the first 10 years of its program."

For the complete 139-page report, click here.

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Medline promotes use of BioMask facemask to protect against flu

BY Michael Johnsen

MUNDELEIN, Ill. — Following last week’s news that the influenza season has gotten off to an early start, Medline issued a release recommending the company’s BioMask facemask as adequate protection against contracting the flu.

BioMask is a Food and Drug Administration-cleared antiviral medical facemask that has been found to inactivate flu viruses — including the H3N2, this year’s dominant strain — as well as other laboratory-tested flu viruses, the company reported. “BioMask should be one of the most important items in any home’s medicine cabinet or traveling first-aid kit right alongside hand antiseptics, adhesive bandages, alcohol pads, tape and exam gloves,” stated Lorri Downs VP clinical services, infection prevention and patient safety for Medline. “BioMask can help protect patients who are at home and especially at-risk groups, such as children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immunities, as well as healthcare workers.”

According to the company, BioMask inactivates 99.99% of the tested flu viruses on five minutes contact. 

BioMask is sold under Medline’s Curad brand name.

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CDC: Influenza-like illness rates dips below national baseline

BY Michael Johnsen

 ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday reported that the national incidence of influenza-like illness dropped below the national baseline of 2.2% to 1.9% and is lower than reported during the previous week. "This fluctuation may be attributed in part to a reduced number of routine health visits during the Thanksgiving holidays, as has been observed in previous seasons," the agency speculated. 

Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 1, 417 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported (a rate of 1.5 per 100,000 population). Among all hospitalizations, 76.5% were associated with influenza A and 21.6% with influenza B. Among hospitalizations with influenza A subtype information, 96.6% were attributed to H3 and 3.4% to 2009 H1N1. 

The most commonly reported underlying medical conditions among hospitalized adults were metabolic conditions, cardiovascular disease, obesity and chronic lung disease (excluding asthma). Among 11 hospitalized women of childbearing age (15-44 years), one was pregnant. The most commonly reported underlying medical conditions in hospitalized children were asthma, cardiovascular disease, neurologic disorders and obesity. More than 40% of hospitalized children had no identified underlying medical conditions. Additional FluSurv-NET data can be found here

For the week ended Dec. 1, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas all reported high levels of ILI activity. Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee reported moderate levels of ILI activity. 

However, according to geographic spread of influenza (which does not account for the severity of influenza activity) CDC reported widespread activity in eight states: Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and South Carolina. 

When national ILI rates eclipsed 2.2% last week, it marked the earliest in the season that had happened for many years, excepting the year H1N1 was prevalent. The 2007/2008 flu season was the last moderately severe season, and that season didn’t cross the 2.2% threshold until late December 2007/early January 2008. 

As part of CDC’s FluView this season, the agency is releasing enhanced web-based interactive applications that can provide dynamic visuals of the influenza data collected and analyzed by CDC. To access these tools visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluviewinteractive.htm.

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