The flu continues its fast and furious spread across the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday.
Most of the worst respiratory illnesses remain concentrated in southern states like Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. There are signs the flu is escalating in other areas like Colorado, New Mexico and Texas, according to the CDC.
Such widespread influenza activity at the start of the typical flu season has not been recorded in the United States for over a decade. This comes ahead of what should be a busy Thanksgiving travel week.
“Influenza hospitalization rates are currently the highest we’ve seen at this time of year in the past decade,” said Lynnette Brammer, epidemiologist and team leader of the National Surveillance Team. flu from the CDC, in an email.
The unprecedented early flu outbreak comes amid a nationwide struggle to control a triple virus epidemic: influenza, Covid and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. While young children are most at risk for complications from viral infections, older adults are also affected.
The currently circulating flu strains, H1N1 and H3N2, tend to affect the very young and very old, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
“Traditionally, we thought H3N2 might be more severe in adults,” Schaffner said. “But it clearly affects children at the same time.”
Flu rates “are highest in people 65 and older and children under 5,” Brammer said.
Is there a shortage of Tamiflu?
The number of people diagnosed with the flu has created isolated shortages of Tamiflu, a prescription antiviral drug that reduces the most severe flu symptoms.
“We don’t have any,” a pharmacist in Charlotte, North Carolina, told NBC News, adding that the drug was out of stock, at least in her pharmacy. North Carolina’s flu activity remains “very high” according to the CDC’s latest report.
Two other pharmacists in Indian Land, South Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte on the North Carolina-South Carolina border, said they had to scramble to keep up with demand for Tamiflu in recent weeks.
Tamiflu is authorized for patients aged 2 weeks and older. It is usually most effective when given within 48 hours of flu symptoms.
All of the pharmacists spoke on condition of anonymity, with none having been authorized to speak on behalf of their employer.
In an email to NBC News, CVS Health said it “sees increased demand” for Tamiflu nationwide.
“We continue to supply stores with Tamiflu and other flu medications using our existing inventory network, but there will be increasing instances where individual pharmacies may be temporarily out of stock,” the company said. society.
Pharmacists who spoke with NBC News said they had difficulty obtaining liquid forms of Tamiflu. The antiviral is available in two versions: a liquid and a pill. The liquid version is often used for children and adults who have difficulty swallowing pills.
Nationally, however, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement that the agency “is not aware of any shortage of Tamiflu or its generics.”
Flu vaccines are widely available, although vaccine fatigue can be felt, Schaffner said. So far this season, Americans are “lag behind” in getting their flu shot compared to recent years, he said.
The flu shot may not prevent infection, but there are signs that this year’s flu shot appears to be working well in keeping people out of hospital.
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