Flu season causing pharmaceutical shortages

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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has categorized this year’s influenza in Idaho as sporadic while other areas across the country are facing a potential wide spread pandemic.

This season’s flu has been effecting all age groups and influenza illness related hospitalization rates are up to 7.2 percent.

"It's been just about everybody. You see the young kids you'd expect, the older population, which you expect, but also the healthy generation there's been quite a bit of them,” said pharmacist Chris Johnson.

According to the CDC, for the week ending Jan. 27, the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza–like illness was 7.1 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent and is the highest ILI percentage recorded since the 2009 pandemic.

"There are medications for preventative measures. The main one is the flu shot, that one is the best way to prevent yourself from getting sick. We have had people who have family members who get sick, the people in their family will get an antiviral to help them prevent getting the flu. That's been pretty effective for most,” Johnson said.

According to the South Central Public Health Department, there have been five influenza deaths in South Central Idaho and 51 deaths statewide. Across the country the tested samples received by the labs ‘Flu-A’ is the predominant subtype detected.

"So in the beginning of the year, we had, there was a little bit of a shortage on the Tamiflu, we had to order it from a couple of our secondary wholesalers. But they sort of fixed that so now it seems like we've been doing pretty good with being able to keep it on our shelves, but it has been going pretty quick,” Johnson said.

If Kurt’s Pharmacy was to run out they have other wholesalers where they can purchase alternative medicines.

"There are about three different medications that are antivirals that help with the flu, Tamiflu is the most popular, that's the one that we carry. If we run out of that one, there's another brand that we can get, and if our wholesaler doesn't have it the place where we buy most of our medication, then we call around and branch out to see if any other drug wholesalers have it and buy it from them,” Johnson said.

Tanis Maxwell, of the SCPHD, recommends self-medicating to try to get better first, but to recognize when it’s time to go to the hospital. Realizing when it’s time to seek medical attention is by tracking symptoms. She says to go to the hospital if breathing becomes difficult, there’s a shortness of breath, or chest pain, coughing brings stuff up, fever remains constant and does not break for a few days, or if symptoms do not improve.

"The main thing is to get a flu shot if you want to prevent it. Because that way if you still end up getting the flu it makes it less severe so you have less chance of having to go to the hospital. If you do end up getting the flu, make sure you see your doctor soon because if you start the antiviral medications within two days of getting the flu you have a much better chance of getting over it quicker,” Johnson said.

Preventative measures to stay healthy include getting a flu shot, washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home if sick.

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