Number of flu cases up; supply of treatment drugs down

Jan 10, 2013

Some communities are reporting increases in cases of influenza.

Columbus Public Health, for example, says 293 people have been hospitalized for the flu since January 5th. That's up from nine cases at this time last year, and 48 cases in 2011. And the virus is hitting children hard. Doctor Andrew Hertz of Children's Hospital in Cleveland says the facility has treated nearly 100 children for the flu since October, a rate ten times higher than last year.

Hertz: This is the heaviest season that we've had in about three years.  Since H1N1, this is the heaviest season we've had.  You're sick for four or five days, very sick, with lingering symptoms for another week.

Other Ohio communities, such as Dayton, say they have seen the number of flu cases decrease. Health officials remind residents that it's not to late to get vaccinated for influenza.  Pharmacies across the country are now running into shortages of Tamiflu -- a popular prescription flu treatment. Pharmacists like Kurt Moyer say they are trying to replenish their stocks, but even the larger pharmaceutical warehouses are running out. Moyer says the early onset of influenza is the main reason for the shortage of the seasonal drug.

Moyer:  Right off the bat there's going to be a potential problem.  And then if you end up in a year like this year, where we are seeing more cases of the flu, that's going to drain that supply faster than you would normally see.

Moyer says while Tamiflu is another weapon in the fight against flu, it's not a cure all. He says it will shorten the illness by a day or a day-and-a-half and make it more comfortable to get through the illness.