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CDC reports increase of influenza-like illnesses this summer


NEW YORK Bottom line: The CDC report means one of two things. The 2009-2010 flu season has kicked off to a roaring start as early as late August/early September — it usually doesn’t pick up until mid-October. Or that the 2008-2009 flu season never really ended.


Either way, it means we’re in for a very interesting, very active cold and flu season, especially with all the hype leading up to this season. One thing is for sure — you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who isn’t on some level aware and concerned about what the coming H1N1 flu virus means to him or her.


And it’s quite a bit of hype. For starters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed two separate public service announcement campaigns — one as part of a partnership with “Sesame Street” geared toward kids; the second as a public contest to deliver the best PSA geared toward other adults — the winner gets $2,500, which should buy enough hand sanitizer and cold-flu medicine to last the rest of the season. And one of the core messages that’s a part of that campaign is “wash your hands” — and that the next best thing to washing your hands is hand sanitizer.

Second, the CDC announced months ago that seasonal vaccine would be delivered earlier than usual to make way for production around H1N1 vaccine (expected mid-October), and that consumers should get their shots as soon as they are available. And that has prompted just about every retail entity with a pharmacy and/or clinic home that provides seasonal vaccines to step up their programs this year, providing seasonal flu vaccine clinics between two weeks and one month ahead of when they launched those programs last year.

That means the government is telling people, in essence, to buy hand sanitizer and get their flu shots straight away. And both retail pharmacies and convenient care clinics are answering that call — mobilizing their flu-shot offerings sooner than later and coordinating with suppliers around what’s expected to be quite a bit of demand around cold-flu supplies this year, which this year has got to include hand sanitizer.

And as for H1N1 vaccination dissemination, both retail pharmacies and convenient care clinics are actively touting the advantages retail healthcare professionals can deliver — including both points of service (corner drug stores/clinics) and personnel (immunizing pharmacists/nurse practitioners).

And all of that means something else entirely — whenever there is a health crisis facing our country, be it Hurricane Katrina or a novel H1N1 pandemic, pharmacy and convenient care clinics are on the front lines, ready and able to make the delivery of health care that much easier.

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