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Influenza widespread across 25 states

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday updated the nation’s influenza status. Nine states are reporting high influenza-like activity (a metric that captures the severity of a flu outbreak) and 25 states are reporting widespread activity (a metric that captures the estimated level of spread of influenza activity through state and territorial epidemiologists reports.)

Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia joined Alabama, Louisiana and Oklahoma, while Georgia dropped to moderate ILI activity in the last week. However, ILI activity is widespread across the South and stretching up through the East Coast, according to CDC data.

The CDC noted that the ILI activity level reported within a state captures the severity of a flu outbreak by measuring the number of outpatient visits for ILI. That metric does not measure the extent of geographic spread of ILI within a state, however, which means a high number of ILI reported in a single city could skew the data for the entire state.

The CDC is reporting geographic spread of influenza — a metric that captures the estimated level of spread of influenza activity through state and territorial epidemiologists reports — in addition to its severity report.

Of all influenza A viruses tested since Oct. 30, 2010, 23.9% were identified as the 2009 H1N1 virus, up from 15.8% the week prior. As many as 42% of the specimens were identified as an H3N2 virus, similar to the H3N2 component of the 2010-11 triumvirate influenza vaccine.

The proportion of outpatient visits for ILI was 3.6% — above the national baseline of 2.5%. Last week, the proportion of outpatient visits was 2.9%.

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Ingles Markets unveils Q1 results

BY Allison Cerra

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Off to a strong start for fiscal year 2011, Ingles Markets on Monday reported a 3.8% rise in net sales for its first quarter ended Dec. 25, 2010.

Net income totaled $7.7 million for the quarter, a 28.3% jump from the year-ago period.

Comparable-store sales, the retailer noted, increased 2.9%, both including and excluding gasoline sales.

"We are off to a strong start for fiscal year 2011, with increased sales and profits for the quarter that included Thanksgiving and Christmas," said company CEO Robert Ingle. "Overall conditions are improving somewhat, but we continue to be cautious about the next few quarters."

In early-morning trading, the retailer’s stock opened at $19.04, after closing at $18.79 on Friday.

Ingles Markets operates 203 supermarkets in six southeastern states.

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Meijer brings grocery to customers’ doorsteps

BY Allison Cerra

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Looking to foray into online sales, Meijer is launching a new grocery service for its customers.

MeijerDoorstepGrocer.com will offer customers thousands of grocery and drug store items, many of them available in single-pack or smaller sizes. Meijer initially will offer about 5,000 items on its website with no minimum order requirement for delivery, the company said. For a limited time, customers will have the opportunity to save on orders that exceed $100. Shipping costs start at $7.95.

"This is a very important step for our e-commerce operations," said Rick Keyes, EVP supply chain operations and e-commerce for Meijer. "While we have provided bulk grocery and multipack products in the past, Meijer is now able to serve a broader audience with a greater number of selections. This new site will truly have something for everyone, including international customers."

Click here to visit the site.

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