HEALTH

CDC: Face masks not necessary for anyone but healthcare professionals

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday issued an interim recommendation around face masks and respirators, suggesting that they are not necessary for use for anyone except those healthcare professionals treating a patient who is either known to have or is suspected of having the H1N1 influenza.

Face masks were one of the items that drug stores quickly ran out of in the wake of the first H1N1 flu reports last month.

“Information on the effectiveness of face masks and respirators for decreasing the risk of influenza infection in community settings is extremely limited,” the CDC stated. “Thus, it is difficult to assess their potential effectiveness in decreasing the risk of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus transmission.”

Instead, the CDC recommended people concerned about contacting the H1N1 virus should wash hands frequently, either with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner; cover mouths and noses when coughing or sneezing; avoid touching eyes, noses and mouths; if sick with the flu, stay home and minimize contact with others for seven days after symptoms begin or after being symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer; and avoid close contact, within 6 ft., with people infected with the H1N1 virus.

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HEALTH

Study finds link between vitamin D deficiency, bacterial vaginosis

BY Michael Johnsen

BETHESDA, Md. There may be a link between vitamin D deficiency and bacterial vaginosis, a vaginal infection that is common among pregnant women and can lead to complications.

According to data to be published in the June 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, researchers tracking 469 pregnant women found that 41% of those women had BV, and that the prevalence of BV decreased as vitamin D concentration increased.

Researchers concluded that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with BV in the first four months of pregnancy. Further, poor vitamin D status may contribute to the strong racial disparity in the prevalence of BV in U.S. women. Controlled intervention trials will be needed to confirm this hypothesis, the researchers suggested.

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IRI study: Consumers not worried about catching H1N1 virus

BY Michael Johnsen

CHICAGO Almost half of Americans (45%) are not concerned about getting a contagious disease like the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus, according to a new consumer survey conducted by Information Resources Inc.

However, that doesn’t mean Americans aren’t looking to actively protect themselves from catching the flu — 54% reported that they would wash their hands more frequently, 24% suggested they would venture out into the public less often and 20% said they would buy more alcohol-based or antibacterial hand cleaners in an effort to prevent infection.

“This epidemic announcement has caught the shoppers’ attention,” Thomas Blischok, president of consulting and innovation, IRI, told Drug Store News. “And their immediate [reaction] was to buy more hand sanitizers [and] any sort of ‘safety’-related products.”

Sales in those hand sanitizers and related products — like N95 masks, for example — spiked in the immediate aftermath of the H1N1 announcement but have dropped since. That could change this fall if the story of an H1N1 return to the U.S. dominates news broadcasts, as is likely, Blischok suggested, and retailers need to be prepared. For the retailer developing a strategy around this now, Blischok said, “it might be good to begin analyzing their data and understand exactly about people who were concerned about [H1N1] changed their purchase behaviors.”

Many of those products — hand sanitizers, facemasks, thermometers, even prescription antiviral medications — were reported out-of-stock when news of H1N1 first broke, Blischok noted. Now, retailers have a few months to prepare for an expected resurgence in demand around those products.

“I can even see the development of a ‘flu avoidance’ endcap,” Blischok said. “Information [and communication] will be key; understanding what people will buy will be key; [and] being very clear that you have the right assortment to support flu prevention will be key.”

Another important issue, especially for pharmacy operators, is the dissemination of information, Blischok said. Once alerted to the potential of a pandemic, Blischok said, consumers turned to their healthcare resources, such as the pharmacist, for more information.

“The clinics inside the drug stores have a great opportunity to really over-communicate things you can do to prevent flu, to avoid flu,” Blischok added. “The stores that have clinics can really win here, because they can do some diagnostics, etc., and really help people understand exactly the kinds of behaviors they should be undertaking to give themselves the greatest chance of not getting the flu.”

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