Monster flu season makes last year’s non existent flu season a distant, bad memory
For the week ended Jan. 19, flu incidence was predominant in the central United States and picking up across the West Coast. According to data provided through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network, 4.3% of patient visits reported through the network were due to influenza-like illness, above the national baseline of 2.2%.
At this time last year, the conversation was all about the flu season that never materialized. Only one week in January last year did flu-like incidence rise above the 2.2% national baseline, and then only slightly. So cough-cold and flu comparisons across the front-end and pharmacy were both projected to be double-digit positive if even there were a moderate flu season this year.
But this season is a monster. Excepting the 2009/2010 H1N1 pandemic season, the last time there were this many people reporting flu symptoms was eight years ago. For the four weeks ended Dec. 30 (and before this year’s flu incidence peak), sales of hand sanitizers were up 15.4% to $14.4 million; sales of personal thermometers were up 35.8% to $17.9 million; sales of cold and allergy liquid formulations were up 27.4% to $133 million; and sales of cold and allergy tablets were up 7.9% to $352 million (data courtesy SymphonyIRI Group across all channels). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of Jan. 18, 133.5 million doses of flu vaccine has been distributed out of the 145 million manufacturers projected would be produced this season. And the Food and Drug Administration took measures to ensure adequate supply of Tamiflu for both adults and children.
And there are still two months of flu season to go.
As of Jan. 19, the flu was still going strong in Texas, the Lone Star State, along with every state that borders Texas. In Washington, California and Oregon, the consensus is that flu incidence has yet to peak. Minnesota reported that more flu deaths have been recorded this season than when H1N1 ran its pandemic course. And on an unrelated front, an Australian stomach flu culprit norovirus called GII.4 Sydney has supplanted GII.4 New Orleans as the predominant strain causing food poisoning in the U.S.
All in all, this is the sickest winter we will have had in years, and that’s big business for retail pharmacy.
CVS Caremark to donate $50K to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund
WOONSOCKET, R.I. — Continuing to assist those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust, a private foundation created by CVS Caremark Corporation, announced on Friday that it is donating $50,000 to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund.
Established by Gov. Chris Christie and chaired by First Lady Mary Pat Christie, the relief fund is a nonprofit organization that raises and distributes funds to organizations to support the recovery and rebuilding efforts of New Jersey communities impacted by the storm.
The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund’s priority is to work with community-based nonprofit organizations to ensure funds address needs not met by FEMA, insurance and immediate disaster response organizations. Allocations from the fund will be made in stages, allowing for qualifying organizations to assess their changing needs as the recovery process continues. The Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund supports healthcare-related initiatives, such as mental health services, as well as financial counseling and assistance for those who have lost homes and jobs.
"We know that many of the people we serve in New Jersey continue to struggle in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and we share Gov. and Mrs. Christie’s dedication to rebuilding affected communities," stated Eileen Howard Boone, president of CVS Caremark Charitable Trust. "As a pharmacy healthcare provider, we are committed to providing assistance where it’s needed most and support the mission of the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund to provide support to programs that address the unmet needs of communities throughout New Jersey."
To date, the CVS Caremark Charitable Trust and CVS/pharmacy have provided more than $200,000 in support of Hurricane Sandy relief efforts, including support to the Red Cross, Rebuild Hoboken Relief Fund and Jewish Family Services of Atlantic County. In addition, CVS/pharmacy continues to operate a mobile pharmacy in Margate City, N.J., at the site of its closed store at 9301 Ventnor Ave. in Margate City, N.J., to ensure that affected communities continue to have access to their prescribed medication.
Disease from Down Under: New Australian norovirus strain responsible for most outbreaks in U.S., CDC says
NEW YORK — A new strain of norovirus from Australia accounts for more than half of outbreaks around the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reported that the new strain of the virus, called GII.4 Sydney, was responsible for 53% of the 266 norovirus outbreaks reported through CaliciNet, an electronic laboratory surveillance network, between September and December 2012. The new strain emerged in Australia in March 2012. The other outbreaks resulted from other strains of the virus, including GII.4 New Orleans. The CDC noted that the new strain appears to have replaced GII.4 New Orleans, which had previously been the predominant strain.
Norovirus is a common cause of food poisoning and so-called stomach flu, causing gastroenteritis that leads to symptoms like nausea, stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. It can be spread through direct human contact or contaminated food. Most people recover in one or two days, but the virus can cause serious complications and death in young children, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.