HEALTH

Influenza activity above national baseline, CDC reports

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Influenza activity remained above the national baseline for the week ended May 9, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Friday, indicating that there are higher levels of influenza-like illness than is normal for this time of year.

As of May 18, there were 5,123 confirmed infections with novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. But that’s not the only influenza virus out there currently, the CDC noted. Illness rates are particularly prevalent in the Pacific Nortwest and in the Southwest, the CDC noted. During week 18, seasonal influenza A (H1), A (H3), and B viruses continued to co-circulate with novel influenza A (H1N1). Only about half of all influenza viruses being detected are novel H1N1 viruses.

There are more than 200 hospitalizations associated with H1N1 so far. The majority of those hospitalizations are occurring in a younger, healthier population — primarily ranging in patients between 5 and 24. Unlike the typical seasonal flu virus, hospitalizations among patients over the age of 65 is relatively rare.

The spike in illness rates may be more a result of more testing than an actual increase in influenza-like illnesses typical for this late in the season.

“I can with great certainty say that that is a reflection of the amount of testing that’s going on,” noted Dan Jernigan, CDC’s deputy influenza director, during a conference call with reporters Friday. “That significant increase is a reflection of this profound amount of testing that has gone on in the last few weeks. … What that means is that there is, even at this end of the usual season, the regular season, a fair amount of regular viruses that are circulating in addition to these from [H1N1].”

Based on activity so far, the novel H1N1 virus could impact as many as 100,000 people.

“If we had to make an estimate, I would say that the amount of activity we’re seeing with our influenza-like illness network is probably upwards of maybe 100,000, but that’s something we will have a much better estimate of once we get the information back from the field teams that are collecting that data,” Jernigan suggested.

The CDC also increased its death toll associated with the H1N1 virus on Monday — there are now six deaths associated with the novel virus, with the most recent a school official from New York City. Currently, there are 22 U.S. states that are reporting widespread or regional influenza activity. So far, there are 173 hospitalizations that have been reported to CDC attributed to the H1N1 virus.

“The H1N1 virus is not going away,” Jernigan said. “We know that the outbreak is not localized but is spreading and appears to be expanding throughout the United States.”

Click here to view the updated 2008/2009 flu season map.

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NACDS develops Marketplace Retail Scorecard

BY Michael Johnsen

PALM BEACH, Fla. The National Association of Chain Drug Stores developed a results-driven resource for retailers attending the 2009 Marketplace conference, called the Marketplace Retail Scorecard. The scorecard focuses retailers on finding new vendors or products, identifying marketing and merchandising opportunities and resolving issues.

“Now, more than ever, retailers are ensuring that their business activities produce tangible results for their bottom lines,” stated Jim Whitman, NACDS SVP meetings and exhibits. “We urge retailers to utilize this new tool as a way to ensure that their business meetings are successful and yield results long after the NACDS Marketplace conference has taken place.”

The scorecard is divided into five “S.M.A.R.T.” deliverables — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound — which will enable retailers to target their goals ahead of time, quantify them, conduct follow-up and plan accordingly for future business activities with suppliers, NACDS stated.

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Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation hosts annual event

BY Alaric DeArment

WELLESLEY, Mass. The New England Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation hopes to raise $1.5 million with a black-tie gala Saturday.

The chapter’s Massachusetts branch will have its 27th annual Hearts & Heroes Gala at the Boston Marriott Copley Place, paying tribute to Insulet Corp. president and CEO Duane DeSisto as honoree and giving the Nancy Jones Diabetes Champion Award to Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy.

“In the fight against diabetes, we have one vision: to find a cure,” JDRF New England Chapter executive director Heidi Daniels said in a statement. “Duane DeSisto, Insulet Corp. and Sen. Kennedy are true champions in the hearts and minds of all of us with loved ones who have Type 1 diabetes.”

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