Health Team

As flu spreads, treatment in short supply

Posted December 23, 2014
Updated January 16, 2015

— Tamiflu, the antiviral drug used to treat the flu, was in short supply at chain drugstores in the Triangle Tuesday, Lance Wheeler, owner and pharmacist at Medicap Pharmacy, said.

"All the chains are out – Walmart, Walgreens, CVS. They are all sending people here," he said.

Medicap stocked up on the drug early in the season and is ordering additional doses from as far away from New Jersey to keep up with the demand.

"They're calling from everywhere," he said. "We just got a call from Pittsboro from someone on the way to try to get some Tamiflu."

The latest weekly flu report, dated Dec. 13, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention includes North Carolina among states with "widespread" instances of the flu. 29 states have reported widespread cases of the flu, meaning flu cases have been confirmed in more than half of a state.

More than 1,700 people have been hospitalized this winter across the country for the flu, with sufferers over age 65 requiring hospitalization the more. Five people, including two children, have died in North Carolina from the flu during the current season, which began in October.

In Raleigh, one Catholic elementary school closed early for the Christmas holidays because up to 30 percent of the student body was ill, a parent said. 

Each year, officials at the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration track flu strains in the southern hemisphere to decide what mix to put in the vaccine for the United States. They must plan in early in the year to have enough flu shots ready for the fall innocluation season. 

But in 2014, the mix was not quite right. Even those who got a flu shot are falling ill, as the science of the flu vaccine is imprecise.

Hospitals limit visits, especially from the young 

On Tuesday, Lumberton's Southeastern Regional Medical Center became the latest hospital to limit visitors because of a surge of flu cases. No one under the age of 18 will be allowed into patient rooms or areas above the first floor there. 

Administrators at UNC Hospitals, Rex Hospital and the Fayetteville VA Medical Center are also limiting patient, especially by the young.

UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill is prohibiting visitors under 12 in any patient rooms and has banned all visitors who have flu-like symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or runny nose.

A similar ban is in place at Rex in Raleigh, where those with cold symptoms are being asked to stay home, and children under 12 are restricted from parts of the emergency department.

The Fayetteville VA is asking anyone under the age of 18 to avoid visits to the hospital or community outpatient clinics. VA patients with flu-like symptoms are being asked to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus.



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