JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It's about halfway through flu season and medical experts warn this could turn out to be the worst flu season since the H1N1 outbreak in 2009.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said since the start of flu season on September 30, 2012, nearly 15,000 cases of influenza have been reported nationwide. The Florida Health Department said here, the flu is typically most active beginning late December or early January.
St. Vincent's primary care physician Dr. Wesley Mills said the holiday season didn't help.
"People come from states where there's higher numbers of these influenza cases, and you're traveling to other places," he said. "It's very contagious, so you can spread it, too. Your cousin from Minnesota could bring you influenza down for the holidays."
However, the widespread outbreak is causing another problem: an increased demand in treatment for flu symptoms.
"It's just been a crazy flu season," says Publix pharmacist Laura Phelps. "A lot of people have been coming in, getting Tamiflu. We're actually out of our Tamiflu right now, it's just been selling off the shelves."
Mills said there are two reasons to use Tamiflu. First, for a patient with a positive flu test, the product helps to get over some of the symptoms faster. The other is for those who will be in close contact with a person diagnosed with influenza to use as a preventative measure.
"So, where there might be 300 cases of influenza in Jacksonville, you multiply that by three because there may be three other people in your household or other close contacts, so that's how it becomes a Tamiflu shortage," explains Mills.
Phelps says another issue for patients can be insurance.
"People usually after the first of the year have new insurance, so we're looking up insurance, so you have long lines."
Of course, all medical experts say in addition to practicing good hygiene, the best way to avoid these problems is to get a flu shot, but keep in mind, it can take a few days to take effect.
First Coast News