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Exclusive: Australia’s bad flu season is a warning for the U.S. this year – TalkOfNews.com

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Australia’s bad flu season is a warning for the U.S. this year

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Pedestrians wear masks in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 13, 2022. The U.S. may be in for a severe flu season this year if trends in the Southern Hemisphere — historically a seasonal harbinger for the U.S. — hold true.

Hans Gutknecht | Medianews Group | Getty Images

The U.S. may be in for a severe flu season this year if trends in the Southern Hemisphere — historically a seasonal harbinger for the U.S. — hold true.

It isn’t the first time since the Covid pandemic began that experts have warned of a bad flu season or even a “twindemic”: a bad flu season on top of a winter surge of Covid. But so far, that hasn’t materialized.

What makes this year different, however, is that flu is surging in Australia for the first time since the pandemic began. Flu season in Australia can be an indication of what’s to come in the U.S.

Australia is nearing the end of its worst flu season in five years, according to the latest report from the country’s Department of Health and Aged Care.

“We watch the all of the Southern Hemisphere countries very closely, hoping that we get some sort of insight, but it’s not perfect by any means,” said Dr. Alicia Fry, the chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, she said, the CDC is “very alert” for signs of an early and/or aggressive flu season in the U.S.

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Up to 41 million people catch the flu every year, on average, resulting in about 52,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

Warning signs for winter

How a vulnerable population can prepare

Usually, people are exposed to a variety of flu strains every year, which helps to build up immunity to the virus.

But with little flu in the past two seasons, that immunity has waned. Young children in particular may be most at risk, experts said, because their immune systems have had even less exposure to the virus.

“There are a lot of young kids who have not had flu at all over the past couple of years,” said Dr. James Cutrell, an infectious disease expert at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. “That’s going to make them more susceptible to get it and then to spread it to other people.”

Cutrell said that people shouldn’t panic about the coming flu season but that “it is time for people to prepare.”

That mainly involves staying up to date on vaccines for both the flu and Covid.

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Protection against one viral infection can help protect against the other, and vice versa, said Dr. Robert Citronberg, the executive medical director of infectious disease and prevention for Advocate Aurora Health.

Both Covid and influenza can cause “significant lung inflammation,” Citronberg said. “Once you have lung inflammation, you’re more susceptible to other infections or pathogens.”

Doctors offices and pharmacies in the U.S. will be getting flu vaccine shipments in the coming weeks. Fry of the CDC said the best time for most people to get the shot is in September or October.

Two groups in particular should get them earlier if possible, she said: young children who will need two shots this year and women in their third trimesters of pregnancy.

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“It’s a good idea to get the vaccine before they deliver so that the baby gets some of the antibodies that Mom develops and the baby’s protected,” Fry said. Infants aren’t eligible for flu shots until age 6 months.

According to the CDC, children younger than age 9 who have never had flu shots should get two doses this year, at least four weeks apart.

In addition, kids in that age group who got only one shot during previous flu seasons may also need two shots this year.

Historically, however, Americans don’t rush to get their flu shots. Just about half of the U.S. population got the shot during the 2020-21 season, the CDC reported. And while there is no guarantee the shots will prevent infection, studies have shown they can reduce the risk of dying or ending up in the hospital with severe flu.

“Flu is not completely preventable by the vaccine, but it’s controllable,” Citronberg said. “If we get a significantly fewer number of people getting vaccinated this year for flu, then it could really impact how many cases we have and the severity of those cases.”

If that occurs, Citronberg predicted, “we’re going to have our hands full.”

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Exclusive: Sweetgreen's stock plummets after salad chain lowers forecast, announces layoffs and office downsizing – TalkOfNews.com

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Sweetgreen's stock plummets after salad chain lowers forecast, announces layoffs and office downsizing

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A worker wears a Sweetgreen Inc. hat while preparing food inside the company’s restaurant in Boston, Massachusetts.

Adam Glanzman | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of Sweetgreen plunged more than 20% in extended trading Tuesday after the salad chain lowered its 2022 forecast.

The restaurant company also said it laid off 5% of its support center workforce and will downsize to a smaller office building to lower its operating expenses.

As of Tuesday’s close, Sweetgreen’s stock has fallen 37% since its initial public offering in November.

Here’s what the company reported compared with what Wall Street was expecting, based on a survey of analysts by Refinitiv:

  • Loss per share: 36 cents, in line with estimates
  • Revenue: $124.9 million vs. $130.2 million expected

Sweetgreen sales softened around Memorial Day, leading the company to revise its forecast lower, CFO Mitch Reback said in a statement.

On the company’s conference call, executives attributed the slowdown to a number of factors, including “unprecedented levels of summer travel,” a slow return to the office and another wave of new Covid-19 cases.

In the quarter, ended June 26, Sweetgreen’s net sales rose 45% to $124.9 million. Its same-store sales climbed 16%, boosted by 6% menu price hikes.

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For the year, Sweetgreen now expects annual revenue of $480 million to $500 million, down from its prior forecast of $515 million to $535 million. The chain also revised its outlook for same-store sales, predicting growth of 13% to 19%, down from the previous projection of 20% to 26%.

“We think that it’s a conservative estimate, but looking back, we’ve just been wrong on so many of these calls,” Reback said on the call.

Moreover, Sweetgreen also changed its outlook for adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization to a range of $45 million to $35 million, wider than its previous range of $40 million to $33 million.

But the chain explained the steps it’s taking to achieve profitability, including layoffs and reducing its real estate footprint by moving to a smaller office. Severance packages and related benefits are expected to cost the company between $500,000 to $800,000, while the office move will cost $8.4 million to $9.9 million. The charges are expected to impact its third-quarter results.

Sweetgreen reported a second-quarter net loss of $40 million, or 36 cents per share, wider than a net loss of $26 million, or $1.55 per share, a year earlier. The company blamed an increase in stock-based compensation for its increasing losses.

Read the full earnings report here.

Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Sweetgreen’s previous forecast for its same-store sales growth.

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Exclusive: Egyptian startup Convertedin raises $3M, caters to e-commerce brands in MENA and Latin America – TalkOfNews.com

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Egyptian startup Convertedin raises $3M, caters to e-commerce brands in MENA and Latin America

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Convertedin, an Egyptian startup that operates a marketing operating system for e-commerce brands, has raised $3 million in a seed round led by Saudi Arabia-headquartered Merak Capital.

Other participating investors include 500 Global and MSAS. The company, in a statement, said it plans to utilize the funds for strategic hiring and further development of its platform.

When brands shift to e-commerce sales, they operate with vast amounts of fragmented data that need to be unified to drive informed decisions and growth. As such, platforms like Convertedin become essential because it caters to brands and businesses with one, some, or all of these objectives: drive personalized and scalable campaigns, convert customers, achieve measurable results and grow revenue.

CEO Mohamed Fergany founded the company with Mohamed Atef and Mustafa Raslan in 2019 after working with several brands in companies such as Speakol Ads and Vodafone. His time as an employee opened his eyes to the opportunity of helping offline stores retarget and retain their customers online while finding new ones to shop at their stores offline.

“If you walk into IKEA and they take your phone number down. After that, our engine works to find a similar product you might buy and we retarget you online. If you went back to IKEA for that product, we can calculate the cost of online conversion,” the chief executive said in the interview. “This was the main idea at this time as we saw a huge problem where there was no analytics platform for the offline store or a retargeting mechanism.”

As the pandemic hit and offline stores were forced to close their doors, many of these brands turned to e-commerce, and as a result, Convertedin took its business online too.

Fergany argues that though online brands use CRM software to gather data, they do not utilize most of it. So Convertedin offers a solution where they can use their data best. It plugs into more than 10 major e-commerce platforms and ad networks — and brands, once connected, can place customers into different segments such as high- and low-value and categories like those looking for specific products and use these insights to create personalized multi-channel marketing and drive various campaigns on social media, SMS, email, search and other channels while having the ability to track and attribute revenue conversion.

Convertedin says SMB e-commerce marketers that use its platform increase their return on ad spend (ROAS) by 2x and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC) by 40%. So far, the company partners with media buying and advertising agencies and works with over 100 local and multinational brands across Africa, the Middle East and South America in the automotive, healthcare and technology industries. Convertedin’s revenues from these businesses have been growing in “double-digits” month-over-month, Fergany said.

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The three-year-old Egypt-headquartered company also has offices in Saudi Arabia and Brazil; it just recently opened one in the latter. The South American market is enormous, with e-commerce revenues reaching $160 billion by 2025 from over 200 million users. As a result, Convertedin plans to make its services available in Portuguese — in addition to English and Arabic — for brands in Brazil and also Mexico, another South American market. Fergany also said Convertedin is eyeing South Africa and India too.

“We focus on emerging markets and if you look at it from healthy unit economics, we can sell easily in those countries because there is low competition there,” said the CEO on the expansion to five new markets, including Saudi Arabia. “And customer acquisition cost is low compared to the U.S. or Europe markets.” The new investment will help Convertedin with this expansion in addition to R&D and hiring.

In a statement, Ahmed Aljibreen, partner at lead investor Merak Capital, addressing his firm’s investment, said the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing platforms adds a new layer of challenges for e-commerce companies — and that Convertedin solves that. Hence, the reason why Merak Capital backed the firm. “We are excited to back Convertedin, a martech company that has built a state-of-the-art platform to simplify digital marketing, improve customer acquisition and drive growth for its clients. Convertedin is led by a world-class team in which we have tremendous confidence as the company embarks on its next stage of growth in MENA and Latin America.”

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Exclusive: Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis – TalkOfNews.com

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Serena Williams announces her retirement from tennis

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Tennis legend Serena Williams announced her retirement in a Vogue article published Tuesday.

“I have never liked the word ‘retirement,’” Williams wrote. “Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is ‘evolution.’ I’m here to tell you that I’m evolving away from tennis, toward other things that are important to me.”

Williams, who turns 41 next month, has 73 career singles titles, 23 career doubles titles and over $94 million in career winnings.

Williams is widely hailed as one of the greatest athletes of all time. In her Vogue piece, she noted that some of her detractors point out that she hasn’t won the most Grand Slam titles in women’s tennis history, however. 

“There are people who say I’m not the GOAT because I didn’t pass Margaret Court’s record of 24 grand slam titles, which she achieved before the ‘open era’ that began in 1968,” Williams wrote. “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that record.”

She said she will retire after the U.S. Open, which will run from late August into September. A victory there would tie her with Court’s Grand Slam record.

“I don’t know if I will be ready to win New York. But I’m going to try,” Williams wrote about the tournament, which is played in Queens.

She has counted sponsorships from companies including Nike, Audemars Piguet, Away, Beats, Bumble, Gatorade, Gucci, Lincoln, Michelob, Nintendo, Wilson Sporting Goods, and Procter and Gamble.

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“I never wanted to have to choose between tennis and a family. I don’t think it’s fair,” Williams wrote. “If I were a guy, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be out there playing and winning while my wife was doing the physical labor of expanding our family.”

Williams focused on her family in the announcement, writing that her nearly five-year-old daughter wants to be an older sister. Williams is married to Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian.

“I have to focus on being a mom, my spiritual goals and finally discovering a different, but just exciting Serena. I’m gonna relish these next few weeks,” Williams wrote in an Instagram post Tuesday.

Professionally, she looks to expand Serena Ventures, a small investment firm of six people that was one of the first investors in MasterClass. Her firm raised $111 million in outside financing this year.

Williams wrote that only 2% of venture capital goes to women and that “in order for us to change that, more people who look like me need to be in that position, giving money back to themselves.”

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