HEALTH

CDC: Influenza rates may have reached a peak, at least in the Southeast

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The worst of the flu season may be over, at least for those in the South. In a late morning press conference with reporters, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are seeing a decrease in some regions."

However, there is still an uptick in flu incidence heading West, and there is no guarantee that this season has reached its peak, he cautioned. "Only the next week or two will show if we have in fact crossed the [peak]," Frieden said. "As we often say, the only thing that’s predictable about the flu is that it’s unpredictable."

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 4.3%, above the national baseline of 2.2%. 

"Most of the country has seen or is seeing a lot of flu. This may continue for the next few weeks," Frieden said. "It does appear that in parts of the South and Southeast it does look [as though] we’re past the peak." A common progression pattern for the flu is for the incidence to begin an uptick across the South and Southeast and then head West, he added. 

The overall effectiveness of this year’s triumvirate influenza vaccine is 62%, Frieden reported. "The flu vaccine is far from perfect, but it is still by far the best tool that we have to fight the flu," he said. 

Addressing reports on vaccine shortages, Frieden suggested that those who want to be vaccinated should still be able to locate the vaccine. "By this time of year, a lot of doctors’ offices [are out]," Frieden said. "It may be that you have to call a lot of places before you go out, but it should be available for you."

There also have been spot shortages of the pediatric liquid formulation of Tamiflu, the CDC reported. 

According to data posted Friday online, influenza-associated hospitalizations are running at a rate of 13.3 per 100,000 population. The most affected group is over the age of 65 years. Among all hospitalizations, 86.2% were associated with influenza A and 13% with influenza B. Among hospitalizations with influenza A subtype information, 98.7% were attributed to H3, and 1.3% were attributed to 2009 H1N1. 

As of Jan. 11, 24 states and New York City were reporting high levels of influenza-like illness, 16 states were reporting moderate levels, five states were reporting low levels and five states reported minimal levels — including California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine and Montana.

"The bottom line: It’s the flu season," Frieden said.


FOR MORE COVERAGE OF THE FLU EPIDEMIC CLICK HERE

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HEALTH

Ferndale Healthcare launches new site

BY Michael Johnsen

FERNDALE, Mich. — Ferndale Healthcare on Thursday unveiled a redesigned corporate web site www.ferndalehealthcare.com to make it easier for a variety of target audiences to navigate the site.

“Ferndale Healthcare reaches several key audiences, both consumer and professional, with information about dermatology and gastroenterology/colo-rectal conditions and treatments,” stated Jeff Holm, VP Ferndale Healthcare. “We wanted to ensure that when anyone arrives at our site, they can easily navigate to the desired information. … We also want to make life easier for patients looking for rebate cards, which have become increasingly important in the current economy.”

When anyone clicks on the web site the company’s signature “fern leaf” unfurls in an animated burst followed by a three-part screen that directs visitors to the portal for which they’re searching.


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HEALTH

Survey: Most moms concerned about breastfeeding in public

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — Most U.S. moms are concerned about breastfeeding in public even though they understand that breastfeeding is the best way to feed their babies, according to the 2012 Lansinoh Breastfeeding Study released Thursday. 

“Breastfeeding in public became one of the hottest publicly debated topics in 2012," stated Gina Ciagne, senior director, professional relations at Lansinoh. "We were interested to find out how that affected moms’ decisions to breastfeed.” 

According to the survey, 79% of moms know breastfeeding is the best choice for a healthy baby and 40% list their greatest concern as breastfeeding in public. Other top concerns include pain (28%), that they wouldn’t be able to breastfeed long enough (28%) or that the baby wouldn’t latch (25%). 

Nearly one-third of moms surveyed stated that women who breastfeed in public are attention-seeking or that it is embarrassing or even wrong. Moms aged 18-25 are the least likely to worry about breastfeeding in public (33%), but have more concerns than older moms about the potential pain (55%) and the baby not latching on correctly (49%).

Older moms have greater concerns about breastfeeding in public, with women in the 36-45 and the 46-and-older age groups citing it as their biggest qualm about breastfeeding (42% and 41%, respectively).

Where moms live in the U.S. also seems to impact their level of concern about breastfeeding in public, with Midwestern moms having the highest concerns.

Midwestern moms feel the most uncomfortable with the concept of breastfeeding in public (43%); have the highest positive perception about infant formula, viewing it as a good alternative to breast milk (83%); and don’t think that breastfeeding is the best option for their babies (25%).

As many as 39% of Southern moms communicated concerns about breastfeeding in public. And slightly more than half of those who do choose to breastfeed do so because of the health benefits to babies. However, Southern moms include the second-highest number of moms who are afraid breastfeeding would hurt (30%), with East Coast moms being slightly more afraid of potential pain (31%).

East Coast moms rate least likely to think breastfeeding in public is perfectly natural, at 41%, but 25% say that it is unavoidable. Also, East Coast women rate least likely to believe a baby should be breastfed for 12 months, at 23%. 

Meanwhile, West Coast women are the most likely to believe that breastfeeding in public is perfectly natural (51%) and have the highest rate in the nation for feeling positively supported by their health care providers regarding breastfeeding issues (50%). They also top the chart across the nation for believing breastfeeding is the best way to feed a baby (84%).

“This survey gave us a deeper understanding of how moms’ feeding decisions seem to be influenced (or impacted) by what region of the country they live [in],” Ciagne said. “Lansinoh and other breastfeeding advocates still have a lot of work to do, especially to reach and teach moms in areas of the country where moms have identified the negative perceptions and barriers to breastfeeding success, namely in regard to feeding in public. It is important for people to understand that breastfeeding is the best preventive medicine for children, as it provides health benefits for moms and babies that last a lifetime, but it is also important for moms to know how to do it practically and to feel comfortable doing it.”


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