HEALTH

CDC: Recent influenza activity exceeds average flu season rates

BY Michael Johnsen

ATLANTA Visits to doctors for influenza-like illness continued to increase in the United States for the week ended Oct. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday, and are higher than levels expected for this time of the year.

For patients between the ages of 5 and 49, hospitalization rates from April through October have already exceeded average flu season rates for that period.

A total of 37 states are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time and almost all of the influenza viruses identified so far are of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. Only Washington, D.C., Hawaii and Vermont reported less than regional influenza activity.

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FDA approves generic OTC allergy medication

BY Alaric DeArment

ROCKVILLE, Md. The Food and Drug Administration has approved a generic version of an OTC allergy drug, FDA records show.

The agency approved Anmeal Pharmaceuticals’ cetirizine hydrochloride syrup in the 5 mg-per-5 milliliter strength.

The drug is a generic version of Johnson & Johnson’s Zyrtec. Amneal is the 10th company to gain FDA approval for a generic version of the drug. J&J switched Zyrtec from a prescription to an OTC drug last year.

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HHS, Ad Council launch television PSAs for H1N1

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Thursday announced that the Department of Health and Human Services has joined with the Ad Council to launch a series of national television public service advertisements designed to encourage Americans to take steps to protect themselves from the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

The ads are designed specifically to reach children, parents, pregnant women and young adults. A second series of PSAs, aimed at encouraging high-risk populations to get the H1N1 vaccination, is launching in late October.

Included in the PSAs being released Thursday were new spots featuring characters from “Sesame Street” and the winning spots from the recent 2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest sponsored by HHS. The Ad Council distributed the PSAs nationwide and the ads will be supported in airtime donated by television stations nationwide. The spots also will be available at Flu.gov, the government’s one-stop Web site for all the latest information on both seasonal and H1N1 flu.

The PSAs include:

  • Targeting young adults — the winning PSA video from HHS’ national 2009 Flu Prevention PSA Contest on YouTube featuring the “hip hop doc,” along with four additional videos from the contest, will aim to reach those ages 17 to 24. More than 50,000 votes were cast for the contest. The PSAs are available in 30-second and 60-second lengths, and include a Spanish-language spot;
  • Targeting parents and pregnant women — produced by HHS, a new series of TV ads featuring Olympic Gold Medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee, singer Marc Anthony and actress Amy Ryan, aim to reach parents and pregnant women. The PSA featuring Marc Anthony also is available in Spanish, and the ads are in 30-second length; and
  • Targeting parents and children — designed to reach children under the age of 5 and their parents, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” produced two new television PSAs. “Sesame Street’s” Elmo and Rosita have a new song teaching children the proper way to sneeze, while Elmo and Luis talk to parents about the importance of creating a plan to keep their children home from school if they get sick. These messages build on a PSA Sesame Workshop released with HHS and the Ad Council earlier this year, which explained the importance of practicing healthy habits this flu season. The PSAs are available in English and Spanish and are in 30-second lengths.

“While getting a flu vaccine is the best way for Americans to protect themselves and their families from the flu, as we wait for the H1N1 vaccine to get distributed out into local doctors’ offices and sites across the country, there are critically important things that Americans can be doing right now to keep their friends and family healthy and safe and to prevent the spread of flu,” Sebelius said. “These new prevention PSAs will help us get the word out about what to do about the flu. Fighting the flu is a shared responsibility between all of us, and we are so grateful to all those who helped create these wonderful new messages. We are hopeful that Americans will spread these new PSAs virally and use to them to help stop the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu,” she said.

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