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Flu season may have peaked, but is far from over CDC says

BY DSN STAFF

It's not the worst flu season in the past decade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shared during a press conference Friday morning. But it's pretty close and it's far from over.

"We are currently in the midst of a very active flu season with much of the country experiencing widespread and intense flu activity," CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald shared with reporters. "So far this season, influenza A-H3N2 has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more death. While our surveillance systems show that nationally, the flu season may be peaking now, we know from past experience that it will take many more weeks for flu activity to truly slow down."

The CDC is highly recommending people get their flu shot despite any public consternation that this year's flu shot isn't a good defense against this year's virus. The vaccine effectiveness against the predominant H3N2 strain has been reported in the low 30 percentile range.

"We also continue to recommend the flu vaccine. While our flu vaccines are far from perfect, they are the best way to prevent getting sick from the flu and it is not too late to get one," Fitzgerald said. "As of this last month, manufacturers reported they shipped more than 151 million doses of flu vaccine, so it should be readily available."

"This is the first year that we've had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph, meaning that there is widespread activity in all of the continental U.S. at this point," added Dan Jernigan, director of the Influenza Division of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "The season has started early and is probably peaking right about now," he said. "It's looking a lot like the activity from 2014/2015 and 2012/2013. Both of those seasons were seasons where the strain H3N2 was the predominant strain. That's a strain that is going to be associated with more cases, more hospitalizations and death. In terms of the numbers, we are having a slight increase this week. We're up at 5.8% [of all patient visits attributed to the flu], which is a slight increase from last week. It's not quite as high as the 6% that was seen in 2014/2015, but still early season peaking now."

Over the last 13 years there have only been two seasons where the CDC has characterized the flu season as "high severity." The first was 2003/2004. The other was 2014/2015. "Both of those were H3N2 predominant years. Whether we will reach that level this year we don't know," Jernigan said. "If you look at the timing of the season, even if we have hit the top of the curve, or the peak of seasonal activity, it still means we have a lot more flu to go. We're currenty in the seventh [week] right now, and in the past, if you look at seasons like the one we're having, there's at least 11 to 13 more weeks of influenza to go. In addition, there are also other strains of influenza that are still to be a major cause of disease. [For example], B viruses will be showing later in the season, [which is] another reason why to go ahead and get vaccinated now if you have not gotten vaccinated."

 

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Sam’s Club’s Turner-Mitchael to retire

BY David Salazar

Sam’s Club senior vice president and GMM of consumable and health and wellness will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year, a Sam’s Club spokesperson confirmed Wednesday. Turner-Mitchael is a 26-year veteran of the company, having joined Walmart in 1992 as a pharmacist in Lubbock, Texas.

During her time at the company, Turner-Mitchael has led various teams at Walmart and Sam’s Club, including Walmart’s pharmacy operations team and Sam’s Club’s merchandising, operations and health and wellness divisions. She has received the Sam M. Walton Blue Coat Award of Excellence.

“Jill leaves a lasting legacy, both as a merchant and as a disruptor in the health care industry,” the company said. “Her passion in raising awareness of health and wellness issues and in testing exciting new concepts in clubs such as free screenings, health kiosks and caregiver support programs has helped the company to become a leader in affordable health care. Jill has also made a strong impact on associates throughout the company with her mentorship and focus on championing women’s advancement in the workplace.”

The company said it has not yet named Turner-Mitchael’s successor and will do so once it has been announced internally.

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Supervalu’s Q3 shows results of acquisitions on wholesale business

BY David Salazar

Grocery retailer and wholesaler Supervalu has shared the results from its fiscal 2018 third-quarter, which included a boon to its wholesale business in the form of its Unified Grocers acquisition, even as retail sales declined. The Minneapolis-based company’s total continuing operations saw net sales of $3.94 billion — up 31% from $3 billion in the same period last year.

Supervalu’s retail division netted $1.02 billion in sales, down 4.1% from last year’s $1.06 billion, which the company attributed to a 3.5% dip in same-store sales and store closings, offset by new and acquired store sales. The company’s retail operating loss was $6 million for the quarter, a number that included $3 million in costs related to store closures. Supervalu’s third-quarter operating loss was well below the loss it posted in the same period last year, when it reported $14 million.

The impact of retail losses on Supervalu’s bottom line was buoyed somewhat by its wholesale division’s performance. The wholesale business posted $2.89 billion in net sales, an increase of 52% over the prior period, which the company said was driven by the Unified Grocers acquisition, as well as new customer sales and increased sales to existing customers. Operating earnings were down slightly from last year, coming in at $48 million after being adjusted for $2 million of merger and integration costs. In the prior third quarter, Supervalu’s wholesale division brought in $52 million in operating earnings.

“With the influx of significant new business in certain distribution centers, we experienced a larger-than-anticipated increase in expenses, but we're encouraged by the work we are doing to address those costs and believe they are manageable going forward,” Supervalu president and CEO Mark Gross said. “We remain committed to investing in our wholesale business to drive future growth.”

On the corporate side, Supervalu saw fees earned of $33 billion from services agreements, and its new corporate operating loss was $1 million — which included $3 million of merger and integration cost. This is compared with net corporate operating earnings of $4 million last year.

With the Unified Grocers acquisition completed in Q3, the company set its sights on its Associated Grocers acquisition, closing it early in its fourth quarter.

“We're pleased to have completed our acquisition of AG Florida early in the fourth quarter,” Gross said. “The work done in the third quarter concluded with this deal which, combined with the acquisition of Unified Grocers earlier this fiscal year, demonstrates our commitment to the strategic growth of our Wholesale business. Furthermore, we're extremely pleased with the integration work at Unified and the progress made in that market.”

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