HEALTH

CDC: Flu vaccination prevented an estimated 6.6 million influenza-associated illnesses last season

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA — Flu vaccination prevented an estimated 6.6 million influenza-associated illnesses, 3.2 million medically attended illnesses, and 79,000 hospitalizations during the 2012-2013 flu season, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published Thursday. CDC also reported today that despite the benefits of flu vaccination, only 40% of Americans 6 months and older had reported getting a flu vaccine this season as of early November 2013.

CDC also posted reports on its web site on estimated flu vaccination uptake so far this season. National early-season vaccination coverage estimates are that 40% of Americans 6 months and older had received a flu vaccination by early November 2013 (39% of adults and 41% of children). This is similar to flu vaccination coverage last season at the same time.

The estimated benefits of vaccination for the 2012-2013 season are higher than any other season for which CDC has produced similar estimates. These high numbers are attributable to the severity of the season. The report estimates that last season there were a total of 31.8 million influenza-associated illnesses, 14.4 medically attended illnesses, and 381,000 hospitalizations in the United States. 

“The estimated number of hospitalizations reinforces what we have always known about flu: that it is highly variable and can be very serious,” stated CDC director Tom Frieden.

Children aged 6 months through four years and persons aged 65 and older, who are among those most vulnerable to influenza, accounted for an estimated 69% of prevented hospitalizations.

“We could prevent even more illness by increasing use of flu vaccines among people of all ages," Frieden said. The MMWR report estimates if 70% of the population had been vaccinated last season, another 4.4 million flu illnesses, 1.8 million medically attended illnesses, and 30,000 flu hospitalizations could have been prevented. 

CDC often cites flu as being responsible for 200,000 hospitalizations each season. This average is taken from data during the 1990s, when annual estimates ranges from 158,000 hospitalizations in 1990-1991 to a high of 431,000 hospitalizations in 1997-1998.

Seasonal influenza activity is increasing in parts of the United States. Further increases in influenza activity across the U.S. are expected in the coming weeks.  

CDC released today’s reports in concert with National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national observance taking place from December 8-14, 2013. Past flu vaccination coverage estimates have shown flu vaccination activity drops quickly after the end of November. NIVW was established by CDC and its partners in 2005 to underscore the importance of continuing flu vaccination throughout the flu season. Peak weeks of influenza activity have occurred in January through March in more than 90% of seasons during the past 20 years, and significant circulation can occur as late as May.

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Report: Global sales of probiotics to reach $23.9 billion by 2017

BY Michael Johnsen

DALLAS — MarketsandMarkets on Friday projected the global probiotics market would reach $23.9 billion by 2017. 

"[The] probiotics market has been one of the prime beneficiaries of the recent fad over functional foods," MarketsandMarkets reported. "Rising levels of health consciousness and aging baby boomer population are a few of the drivers helping in the growth of the market. 

Probiotic dairy products are expected to command the highest market share among all the probiotic foodstuffs accounting for almost 80% in the year 2011. The biggest markets for these products are Europe and Asia-Pacific. The North American market has gradually opened up to these products in the recent past and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 7.0% from 2012 to 2017, the biggest contributor being supplements and specialty nutrients. 

Though the market base of probiotic products is comparatively lesser in the U.S. in comparison to countries across the globe, the market is expected to grow at a promising rate of almost 6.8% in the same period driven by the large scale acceptance of the probiotic yogurts in spoonable single serve packs and probiotic cultured drinks in single shot packaging form and probiotic dietary supplements.

Products that fall under the niche category presently, such as probiotic chocolates, probiotic ice creams and probiotic baked products are expected to enjoy a larger market share. Consumers’ willingness to pay the premium price for fortified products with proven benefits is a key driver for these segments. However, probiotic cheese, probiotic butter, etc. are fated to the status of ultra-niche products due to their conventional image as unhealthy dietary products.

 

 

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Kaz launches Braun Forehead Thermometer

BY Michael Johnsen

SOUTHBOROUGH, Mass. — Kaz on Thursday announced the launch of the Braun Forehead Thermometer, which features a lightweight, ergonomic design, providing a step-by-step on-product usage guide and user-facing digital temperature readouts on a large, backlit screen. 

In addition, the thermometer’s fever guidance system indicates the severity of each reading with a green, yellow or red light, helping parents easily decipher and monitor the status of their child’s temperature. 

The Braun Forehead Thermometer is designed to measure the temperature of the skin above the temporal artery, a major artery of the head that offers constant blood flow to the heart. 

The Braun Forehead Thermometer’s built-in infrared technology takes multiple readings during each forehead swipe, processing the readings using a unique algorithm for an accurate measurement. The thermometer automatically converts the final reading to the oral temperature equivalent.

The Braun Forehead Thermometer has a suggested retail price of $49.99 and is backed by a three-year limited warranty.

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