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Common flu treatment proving tough to find

Flu Vaccination
Posted at 9:58 AM, Jun 22, 2022

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The late-season spread of the flu is surprising doctors and patients alike.

According to experts, flu activity across the country is typically waning by April or May each year. Still, it's pushing into the later part of June this year, with some states listed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as high for flu activity during June.

Chelsea Gass, an expecting mother in south Florida, was sick with the flu. Her two young boys also contracted the virus.

"It's stressful, but we're making it," Gass said.

The family experienced symptoms such as cough, body aches, and fevers.

"The last time we saw flu in the summer on a consistent basis was 2009 when we had the swine flu outbreak," Dr. Lynda Bideau said.

She's a practicing pediatrician in south Florida who is treating multiple patients for the flu each day of late.

Medical professionals point to various reasons for the late-season flu activity.

Sterling Hall, a nurse practitioner in south Florida, said it's partly a ripple effect of the COVID era.

"We were so well protected before," Hall said. "We did so well at masking and hygiene and hand washing and trying not to infect other people, and now that so much has gone down and gotten better, we've dropped that protection."

Physicians are also seeing some co-infection cases of late, mostly in adults. Dr. Ethan Chapin, a doctor with the Emergency Department at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Massachusettes, said these patients suffer from a variety of symptoms.

"Those are the people who check off all the boxes - high fever, severe muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, sore throat, cough, wiped out, and you walk in, and you're like, that person is sick," Chapin said.

Gass' family is only recovering from the flu.

"My obstetrician, since I'm 30 weeks pregnant, gave me Tamiflu. Luckily, I was able to get it," Gass said.

Tamiflu is one of the most commonly prescribed flu medications, according to doctors, but the treatment has been challenging to find for some.

"I had patients going from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to look for it and find Tamiflu," Hall said.

"This flu season that we're getting so late with the continued simmer of COVID is something we've never experienced before," Dr. Chapin said. "There's no way to estimate the timing or how much of the drug we'll need. So, I think some of those shortages are because stockpiles weren't replenished and previous orders expired."

Doctors said while a patient may have to shop around to find Tamiflu, filling a prescription for the treatment is not impossible.

Doctors also said it's not too late to get a flu shot, though much like with Tamiflu, a person may have to shop around to find a flu shot in stock at a doctor's office or pharmacy since it's so late in the season.