Flu cases rising; Tamiflu in high demand

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - It's the middle of flu season and it's not over yet. The flu is now widespread in Georgia with emergency rooms tending to almost 300 reported cases, but pharmacies can't seem to keep Tamiflu and other flu preventative medicines on the shelves.

Health officials want to make sure people are being as preventative as possible when it comes to not spreading the disease, especially while Tamiflu and other over the counter medicines are in short supply. They say that it's important to recognize symptoms of flu and get treated as soon as possible. Simple things like coughing or sneezing in your elbow, and even washing your hands regularly are some ways to not spread the disease.

"If Tamiflu is not available, then you treat the symptoms as you always have: bed rest, plenty of fluids, and you ride it out," said Al Dixon, the Owner of Richmond Hill Pharmacy. "It usually lasts a couple of days longer without Tamiflu. The biggest benefit of Tamiflu is it helps prevent the transmission to others and reduces the severity of the symptoms."

"We've been out for about three weeks and so has everyone else," Dixon said. "What is not available is the liquid for the children and because we are a compounding pharmacy, we are about to take the capsules and convert it into liquid, so we are also getting referrals from other pharmacies and calls from physicians asking if we can make the liquid," Dixon said.

The more flu cases, the higher the demand for over the counter protection for the disease.

"Manufacturers are racing to make more, but they are behind," Dixon said.

If finding Tamiflu seems to be a difficulty right now, health officials say using preventative measures help, such as washing hands, cleaning surfaces, and staying away from sick people. You may even see some people wearing a face mask.

Nurse Manager Tammi Brown also has a reminder for people with flu-like symptoms.

"People want to be mindful for fever, chills, and maybe even some pain, vomiting, because if you notice those symptoms, you may want to get to your doctor or your primary care provider as soon as possible to possibly get treatment for the flu," said Brown, R.N., Chatham County Health Department. "It's still not too late to get a flu shot. A flu shot is really the best means of preventing the flu."

If you want to track the spread of flu in your area, there's an app for that. 'Sick Weather' tracks flu and cold outbreaks around the nation. It works by crowdsourcing. You can learn more about it here.

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