The Flu- Many ER’s Are Full and Reports of Tamiflu Shortages. What Now?

I normally don’t like to raise the red flag of fear and listen the the hysteria of the mass media who promote almost every year as a possible pandemic flu to get more viewers.

But with many of the ER’s in my own town overflowing with patients, including some that are on ‘bypass’ (meaning the ambulances know to go on to the next hospital if they hope to bring a patient because there is no room), my red flag starting going up this last week. Not only is this happening here in Phoenix, but across that nation. One hospital in San Diego has set up a triage tent due to the overwhelming number of flu patients arriving. Nationwide, 13 children have already died this flu season, and the number of elderly with flu and pneumonia had increased. The upswing in cases is not restricted to the USA. Similar reports are being made in other countries, as well.

Now, there are shortages of Tamiflu, the antiviral used to reduce the seriousness of the flu and decrease the risk of hospitalization. It’s possible that the supplies of Tamiflu will soon be restricted to only high risk patients, but currently, there has not been any announcement as such. Tamil reduces the number of days of illness if taken with in 48 hours (possibly even up to 72 hrs) of symptoms starting . The sooner the better.

In part, this is all because the rapid increase in cases is hitting at once, in an early large surge, putting a strain on medical facilities and medical supplies that otherwise would have proven sufficient for a typical season or one that was more spread out. Hopefully, the season will run itself out early, too. But there is no way to tell.

Now what?

Your best bets now are to:

  • Protect yourself- 
    • Wash your hands often
    • Don’t touch your face ( especially eyes) unless your hands are washed,
    • Stay away from others that are visibly ill, coughing
    • Get a flu shot- it is NOT too late.
    • Keep aware of this year’s flu trends through the CDC and your local health departments to make sure you know of any recommendations.
  • Protect others-
    • Stay home if you are sick.
    • Cough into a tissue or into your sleeve
    • Wash your hands often
    • Keep elderly and very young away from others that are visibly ill.
  • Seek early care for yourself or your loved ones:
    • Emergency rooms might be full, so if you have mild symptoms and no risk factors (below), stay home, self treat, and stay away from others where you can spread the illness.
    • BUT if you or someone you know that is a high risk patient (see below) has symptoms, go get seen right away. Yes- this might mean long waits at an ER. Or call your providers. Or go to Urgent Care. But high risk patients have a much higher risk of getting seriously ill, being hospitalized, or dying from complications, such as pneumonia.
      • High Risk Patients:
        • < 5 years old
        • 65 years old
        • Pregnant
        • Decreased Immune System
        • Obese
        • Long term care or nursing home patients
        • Underlying heart or lung diseases
    • Signs To Go Get Medical Help (for any patient, regardless of risk category): 
      • Chest pain
      • Difficulty breathing
      • Dizziness
      • Confusion
      • Can not drink enough fluids (Urine turning dark)
      • Vomiting, significant diarrhea
      • lethargy
      • Unconscious, poorly conscious
      • For infants and young children, include agitation/fussier than usual, not wanting to feed, dry diapers, or not waking for feedings, excessively drowsy.

Of course, anytime you think you or someone you love is too sick and needs medical care, go. You will get triaged by the ER. In some states, there are Apps or websites were the ER wait time is available. On some areas, appointments at ER’s can be made online so you can rest at home until your appointment time, reducing your ER wait and your exposed to others that may transmit the flu.

 

 

 

 

 

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