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Flu season in swing: Vaccine good protection

BY Michael Johnsen

Through the first week of the New Year, incidence of flu was on a slight incline but still relatively low. Only two states, Alabama and Louisiana, reported a measured rise in influenza-like illnesses.

For many seasons, the spread of influenza begins to accelerate in the latter half of January to peak sometime in February/March.

From Oct. 1, 2011, through Jan. 7, 2012, most of the viruses anti­genically characterized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appeared to match up well against the 2011-2012 influenza vaccine — meaning this season’s triumvirate vaccine should serve as good protection — though the CDC noted it was still too early in the season to determine how well the seasonal influenza vaccine strains and circulating strains will match.

High levels of resistance to the adamantanes (amantadine and rimantadine) persist among 2009 influenza A (H1N1) and A (H3N2) viruses — the adamantanes are not effective against influenza B viruses. However, all viruses tested for the 2011-2012 season since Oct. 1, 2011, have been susceptible to the neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral medications Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), as were the majority of viruses tested last season, the CDC reported.

However, rare sporadic cases of Tamiflu-resistant flu viruses have been reported worldwide, the CDC cautioned.

To view the flu activity maps, click here.

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Rite Aid launches heart health campaign

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid is marking American Heart Month with a campaign that offers blood-pressure screenings, online tools and hearth health guides for free, the company said Wednesday.

Through Feb. 29, customers can buy a paper red dress for $1 that they can sign, dedicate and pin to store walls to help promote awareness of women’s heart health.

"Rite Aid is a committed year-round advocate for our customers’ overall health and wellness," Rite Aid SVP marketing John Learish said. "During American Heart Month, this commitment includes access to specially designed in-store and online heart health resources, including our greatest asset, the neighborhood Rite Aid pharmacist."


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Taking a shot: Flu vaccinations up at retail

BY Michael Johnsen

As many as 111 million Americans had gotten a flu shot by mid-November, representing 36% of the 305 million Americans older than 6 months of age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in early December. The number of people getting vaccinated is up slightly from last year, the CDC reported, most notably among children and seniors.

Additionally, more influenza vaccines are being administered in a retail setting. While 55% of people are still getting their vaccinations in a doctor’s office or other medical setting, 21% of adults have been vaccinated in a retail setting and 16% in a workplace setting.

In 2010, of people who had gotten a flu shot, 58% did so before November, 23% were inoculated in November and 19% had their flu shots administered between December and May.

“This is the second year of our universal influenza vaccination recommendation,” reported Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases for the CDC, adding that the number of people who have gotten their flu shot to date is outpacing last year’s rate by about 3.5 percentage points during the same period in 2010.

Approximately 36% of adults had been vaccinated through Dec. 5, versus 34% in 2010; and 37% of children had been vaccinated through Dec. 5, versus 31% in 2010.

 

FAST FACTS

  • Flu is contagious up to one day before symptoms develop and between five days and seven days after symptoms subside.

  • Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year. Those at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu include seniors, toddlers, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, including asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

  • The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year.

  • The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray — is approved for use in healthy people 2 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant.

  • There are three “flu shots” this year: an intramuscular shot approved in people 6 months and older, a high-dose vaccine for seniors and for the first time this season, an intradermal vaccine for use in adults between the ages of 18 and 64 years.

Click here for data on the 2011-12 flu season.

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