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Flu fears hoist sales of hand cleaner products

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PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. — Sales of hand cleaner products, particularly hand sanitizer and hand wipes, have jumped since the start of the year, driven by the severe U.S. flu season, according to market research firm The NPD Group.

NPD said Monday that hand cleaner sales at retail surged 16% year over year to $83.6 million in the first month-and-a-half of 2018.

The sharpest growth came from hand sanitizer, which generated sales of $17.8 million, up 37% from the same period last year. Hand wipe sales totaled $11.2 million in the six weeks, up 30%. Hand soap — the biggest segment in the hand cleaner category — tallied sales of  $54.6 million, a 9% increase.

Sales of hand cleaner products in the commercial channel saw a similar growth trajectory, according to NPD.

“Consumers are placing greater emphasis on health and wellness throughout the year, but during the colder, flu season months, individuals, companies and schools ramp up their efforts to ensure their employees, students and loved ones are healthy,” stated Tia Frapolli, president of NPD’s office supplies practice. “Maintaining a clean and sanitary environment is important for health as well and school and workplace productivity.”

The number of flu cases nationwide has tailed off in the past couple of weeks, suggesting that the worst of the 2017-18 flu season has passed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In its latest weekly flu update, the CDC reported that the percentage of health care visits for influenza-like illness was 5% through Feb. 24, down from 6.4% in the previous week and now similar to ILI observed at the peak of last season. Early February saw the peak of the current flu season, with 7.4% of health care visits for ILI.

This season, flu activity began climbing in early November and surged from December through early February, when the virus typically peaks. However, flu season can run through March and even stretch into May.


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