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Kerr Drug girds for spring outbreak of H1N1 virus

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RALEIGH, N.C. — With H1N1 vaccine now widely available, Kerr Drug is urging customers to get immunized and not mistakenly interpret the thus-far moderate flu season as a sign that virus activity is waning.

And with the historically peak months for the flu arriving, Kerr Drug said it is teaming up with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to inform people to prepare for a spring H1N1 flu outbreak and by getting vaccinated.

"Kerr Drug has an adequate supply of H1N1 vaccine, so we are able to provide the vaccine to anyone (age 14 or older) who wants it," stated Joe Heidrick, director of operations for KDI Health Solutions, the clinical subsidiary of Kerr, which has about 90 stores in North Carolina. "Those at high risk include children and young adults, pregnant women and people with chronic health problems such as asthma and heart disease."

Kerr said it is offering flu shot clinics in its stores as well as at employer sites and community events. As of mid-January, the chain had clinics scheduled this month at 14 stores, and it said on its web site that more clinics are upcoming this flu season as additional H1N1 vaccine becomes available.

The drug chain explained that while only four states — Delaware, Maine, New Jersey and Virginia — are reporting widespread H1N1 flu, the CDC warns that the virus is still circulating and that the seasonal flu strain has not yet peaked. As a result, the CDC is recommending that people to get vaccinated for H1N1 while there is a lull in flu activity and vaccines supplies are abundant.

"Complacency is probably our top enemy," Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a statement provided by Kerr. "I hope people don’t think this is all over."

Because of the two-pronged flu season — the threat of seasonal and H1N1 viruses — Kerr took extra steps to get ready early on. The pharmacy chain said in September that it trained additional pharmacists to administer flu vaccines, enabling it to assign 115 immunizing pharmacists to its stores.

In addition, Kerr said at the time that because of the additional resources it’s deploying for flu season, the state’s health department chose it to be one of the first pharmacies to administer the H1N1 vaccine.

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