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Flu Season’s Approaching So Roll Up Your Sleeve

September 28, 2012 By: Nadia Category: HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News

www.Medtipster.com Source: HealthDay, 9.27/12 – By Steven Reinberg

 The only thing predictable about the flu is its unpredictability, U.S. health officials said Thursday, as they urged virtually all Americans to get vaccinated for the coming season.

Even though last year’s flu season was one of the mildest on record, that’s no sign of what this season will bring. It was only two years ago, officials noted, that the H1N1 pandemic flu swept around the world, sickening millions.

“The last several years have demonstrated that influenza is predictably unpredictable,” Dr. Howard Koh, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said during a morning news conference.

“Even mild seasons can lead to suffering and death,” Koh added. “Sadly, last year there were some 34 influenza-associated pediatric deaths.”

Every year an estimated 5 percent to 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu, leading to 200,000 hospitalizations — including 20,000 children under age 5, Koh said. And over a 30-year span, from 1976 to 2006, estimates of flu-related annual deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000.

This year’s vaccine contains the same strains as last year’s, plus two new strains — one for a new influenza A virus and another for a new influenza B, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Division, said at the news conference.

“More than 85 million doses of flu vaccine have already been distributed and more is on the way,” he said, adding that about 170 million doses are expected to be available.

“The best time to get vaccinated is before the flu season gets started,” Jernigan said. “Everyone 6 months and older is encouraged to get vaccinated.”

The typical flu season runs from the fall through early spring.

Koh stressed the vaccine is safe and has only mild side effects. Because the flu is different each year, the vaccine needs to be revised to keep up with the circulating strains.

Despite the low level of flu activity in 2011-2012, about 42 percent of Americans got vaccinated, which is about the same as for the previous flu season, according to CDC records.

Among children, some 52 percent were vaccinated last year, compared with 51 percent the year before, Koh said. Vaccination rates typically drop as children get older, he noted.

For children 6 to 23 months old, almost 75 percent were vaccinated during the 2011-2012 flu season, compared to just 35 percent of teens, Koh said. “We were pleased that, for kids, for the second year in a row there were no racial or ethnic disparities in coverage,” he said.

But when it comes to adults, “there is much room for improvement,” Koh said. “Last year about 39 percent of adults were vaccinated, compared to some 41 percent the year before,” he said.

Vaccination is important for all adults, but particularly for those with conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease, which can leave them susceptible to complications from flu, Koh said. “Coverage among these high-risk adults was only 45 percent last season, compared to 47 percent the season before,” he said.

While there were no racial or ethnic disparities in vaccination rates among children, disparities remained among adults, he said. Whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives had the highest vaccination rates at 42 percent, while Hispanics had the lowest rate at 29 percent, he said.

On the plus side, more pregnant women are getting vaccinated, Koh said, noting that pregnant women are at greater risk of complications from the flu. What’s more, a mother’s immunity can protect her newborn for the six months before the child is old enough to be vaccinated.

Koh also reported that last year 67 percent of health-care personnel were vaccinated, but there were major differences among workers in this group. For example, 87 percent of doctors working in hospitals were vaccinated. But in nursing homes, other than doctors and nurses, the vaccine coverage rate was 50 percent. “This is worrisome because these people care for people at high risk for complications from flu,” he said.

Getting vaccinated is the best protection from the flu, Koh said. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot every year. Last season’s vaccination campaign prevented almost 5 million cases of the flu, 2 million doctor’s visits and 40,000 hospitalizations, according to CDC estimates.

More information

To learn more about the flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SOURCES: Sept. 27, 2012, news conference with Howard K. Koh, M.D., M.P.H., assistant secretary for health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Daniel Jernigan, M.D., M.P.H., deputy director, Influenza Division, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Vaccines are not just for children

September 27, 2010 By: Nadia Category: H1N1 News, HealthCare, Medicine Advice, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

www.Medtipster.com Source: The New York Times, 9.24.10 – by Lesley Alderman

About 11,500 cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, have been reported nationwide so far this year. In California, where the infections are nearing a record high, nine infants have died.

It is likely that some of those children had not received all their shots, experts say. But some of those deaths might have been prevented if more adults, too, had been immunized.

Though public health authorities have long recommended that adults get a pertussis booster shot, just half have done so. Without it, they risk passing this illness to vulnerable children.

“Almost everyone understands how important it is for children to be immunized,” said Dr. Melinda Wharton, deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “but adults need vaccines too.”

Far too few get them. The C.D.C. recommends that people 19 and older receive immunizations against as many as 14 infectious diseases. (Not all adults require every vaccine.) Yet most adults rarely think about getting the shots — until they step on a rusty nail or begin planning travel to a developing country.

Only 7 percent of Americans over age 60, for instance, have received the herpes zoster vaccine, which prevents shingles, a painful nerve infection. Just 11 percent of young women have received the vaccine against the two types of human papilloma virus that cause 70 percent of all cervical cancers.

Why are adults so behind on vaccinations? For one thing, the shots can be expensive (from $20 to $200 a dose for some, and some require three doses). But a bigger part of the problem is a lack of awareness. Doctors often fail to remind patients that they require booster shots, and consumers are not well informed about the need.

In a 2007 survey by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, 40 percent of respondents incorrectly stated that, if they had received vaccines as a child, they did not need them again; 18 percent said vaccines were not necessary for adults.

The new health care law should help get more adults to roll up their sleeves. Under the law, group and individual health plans, as well as Medicare, must provide preventive health services, including immunizations recommended by the C.D.C., free of charge. That means no co-payments, co-insurance or deductibles.

The hope is that since vaccines will be free, more doctors will suggest them and more patients will ask for them, said Jeffrey Levi, executive director of Trust for America’s Health, a nonprofit group that works to prevent epidemics.

Here’s the catch. If you are in a group or individual health plan, your plan must be new, or it must have undergone substantial changes, in order for the new requirements to apply. In addition, certain recent vaccine recommendations will not be covered right away. If you are uncertain, call your insurer.

Adult immunizations are not just an important way to prevent the spread of disease. Immunizations are also a phenomenally cost-effective way to preserve health.

“When you compare the cost of getting sick with these diseases to the cost of a vaccine, it’s a modest investment,” said Dr. Robert H. Hopkins, a professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

If you end up in the emergency room with a bad case of the flu or pneumonia, your bill could be thousands of dollars. A flu shot is just $20, or often free; the pneumonia vaccine is about $77.

Here is how to get up-to-date on your shots — whether you have a new insurance plan, an old plan or no plan at all.

THE VACCINES YOU NEED Tear out the immunization chart accompanying this article or print it out online. Note the vaccines you should be getting, based on your age and health status.

This year, for the first time, the C.D.C. recommends that everyone, regardless of age or health, get an influenza shot. Most people need only one. This year the flu shot provides protection against the H1N1 virus and two seasonal viruses.

Most other vaccines are intended for specific age groups or for those with particular risk factors. The zoster vaccine, for example, has been tested only in older people. There is little evidence that it could benefit younger people, whose immune systems are still strong.

Next, figure out which vaccines you have already received. Your doctor should be able to help. But if you have switched physicians a number of times, you may have to reconstruct your history on your own.

“When in doubt, get vaccinated,” said Dr. Hopkins. “There’s very little risk with getting a second dose of a vaccine.”

IF YOU HAVE INSURANCE Call your primary care physician and explain that you would like to get your vaccinations updated.

Some offices do not stock vaccines, so it is wise to tell the staff in advance what you will need. You may find that certain vaccines are not available right away; your doctor can tell you where to find them, or how long the wait will be.

Next, call your insurer and ask if they will cover vaccines free of charge. If not, ask how much they charge. If the fees are high, see below for alternate options.

IF YOU LACK COVERAGE You can still pay out-of-pocket for immunizations at the doctor’s office, of course. But the shots may be less expensive at other places.

YOUR HEALTH DEPARTMENT If money is tight, find out if your state or community health department provides vaccinations for adults. Unfortunately, there is no federally funded program for adult immunizations, only for children.

The C.D.C. Web site provides an interactive map to help locate the health department or immunization clinic in your area.

YOUR LOCAL PHARMACY Many retail clinics administer vaccines, including CVS MinuteClinics and Walgreens Take Care Clinics. MinuteClinics offer 10 vaccines for adults, including shots for hepatitis A ($117) and B ($102), meningitis ($147), pneumococcal disease ($77) and DTaP, which protects you from diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis ($82).

There are 500 CVS clinics across the country, and all are open seven days a week. No appointments or prescriptions are necessary. Walgreens clinics offer travel vaccines, like the one for typhoid fever, as well.

Even if your local pharmacy does not have a clinic, you may be able to get some of the shots you need there. In all states, pharmacists are licensed to give flu shots; in some states, they can administer other vaccines as well, like the one to protect against pneumonia.

Check with a local pharmacy and find out what shots they are licensed to provide and at what cost.

Find a local pharmacy nearest your home that offers your vaccine at the lowest price at www.medtipster.com >

YOUR EMPLOYER Inquire at your company’s human resources or wellness office. Some companies provide free flu shots for employees, as well as their families. Few companies provide other vaccines, but it can’t hurt to ask.

Remember that when you get immunized, you are not only ensuring your own good health but the health of those around you.

Meijer To Offer Diabetes Drug At No Cost

April 13, 2010 By: Nadia Category: Free Prescriptions, Medtipster, Prescription News, Prescription Savings

Meijer Pharmacies To Dispense Metformin Immediate Release At No Cost To Prescription Holders

Type 2 Diabetes Treatment Added To The Meijer Free Antibiotics And Free Pre-Natal Vitamins Programs

Meijer announced plans to begin offering Metformin Immediate Release, the most commonly prescribed treatment for type 2 diabetes, at no cost to those with a medical prescription. Meijer’s program will include doses prescribed in 500mg, 850mg and 1000mg tablets.

According to American Diabetes Association estimates for 2007, more than 24 million Americans have diabetes, with type 2 diabetes accounting for 90-95 percent of all cases.  

Diabetes is a disease that has no cure. Currently, more than 80 million American children and adults have some form of diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three children born today will develop diabetes in their lifetime. The numbers are even worse for minorities.

Metformin Immediate Release is now believed to be the most widely prescribed anti-diabetic drug in the world. In 2008, more than 80 million prescriptions for Metformin were filled in the United States alone.

Meijer’s addition of Metformin Immediate Release to its free medication program comes just weeks after Florida-based grocer Publix led the industry by announcing it would provide free Metformin prescriptions in its pharmacy.

Find a Meijer Pharmacy carrying free Metformin at: www.medtipster.com

Five Million, Six Hundred Fifty Six Thousand – But, Who’s Counting?

October 30, 2009 By: Tylar Masters Category: H1N1 News, Medtipster

Tylar Masters

Tylar Masters

The actual number of confirmed cases of swine flu could be nearly 140 times greater than originally reported.

The swine flu has everyone talking, and everyone concerned in one way or another. It’s a topic we hear about daily in the news. The shortage of the H1N1 vaccine has sent millions into a panic, especially those with young children or caretakers of elders, who are at the highest risk.

The number of laboratory confirmed cases from April 2009 to July 2009 is approximately 44,000 in the United States alone. But what if that number is completely inaccurate? How would that effect the supply of the H1N1 vaccine now that flu season is here and we’ve entered into the “fall swing” of the swine flu? Answer: Tremendously.

The truth is that the estimate could be off just a little. Like 5,656,000, but who’s counting? Well, every single concerned American for one! According to researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Harvard School of Public Health, the actual number of infected individuals in the United States is between 1.8 million and 5.7 million. That’s up to 140 times greater than the earlier reported 44,000 infected Americans.

The CDC and Harvard suggest that “health systems and infrastructure may be unprepared in the short-term if plans are based on a number of confirmed cases.” That being said, knowing the true number of confirmed cases seems like a high priority.

Resources: Bloomberg, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harvard School of Public Health

Tylar Masters
Manager of Marketing and Communications
Medtipster, LLC.
email: tmasters@medtipster.com
web address: www.medtipster.com

New Link to Microsoft Powered H1N1 Response Center

October 29, 2009 By: Tylar Masters Category: H1N1 News, Medtipster

Tylar Masters

Tylar Masters

Helpful Link Directs Users to Microsoft Powered H1N1 Response Center

Medtipster.com has added a new feature to the website to help consumers determine if their symptoms align with seasonal flu or H1N1 swine flu. By clicking on the “Helpful Links” tab on the menu bar from any of Medtipster.com’s pages, the “Flu Self-Assessment,” licensed by Emory University, and powered by Microsoft, will walk consumers through a series of questions and will provide a suggestion as to whether the symptoms are flu-like or possibly another illness.

It’s always important to talk to your physician about your health concerns. Medtipster.com and Microsoft’s H1N1 Response Center does not provide medical advice and does not replace the advice of a healthcare professional. Medtipster.com and Microsoft cannot guarantee and is not responsible for the accuracy of the guidance for your situation. We encourage you to evaluate it carefully and take the following into consideration:

  • If you are worried about your health, call your doctor.
  • If you do not have a doctor, go to a walk-in clinic (Medtipster.com’s mini-clinic search will help you find one in your neighborhood)
  • If you think you have an emergency, call 9-1-1.

For more information on the seasonal flu or H1N1 swine flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/.

Tylar Masters
Manager of Marketing and Communications
Medtipster, LLC.
email: tmasters@medtipster.com
web address: www.medtipster.com

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