Flu fallout: Some pharmacies facing a problem with spike in sickness

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CLEVELAND– Some Northeast Ohio pharmacies are already experiencing a shortage of the influenza drug Tamiflu, as the number of local cases continues to rise. Health officials said the flu is hitting hard, landing hundreds in local hospitals. High student absence rates have forced several local schools to close.

In Cuyahoga County, influenza activity has already reached a “high” level much earlier than usual. According to figures from the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, 309 people were hospitalized related to the flu between November 23 and December 13, a 162% increase over the same period last year. Last week, 439 people visited ERs with flu-related symptoms, up from 173 during the same week in 2013.

“That's the highest we've seen in the last five years,” said Richard Stacklin, with the Cuyahoga Co. Board of Health, adding it’s an early spike not usually seen until January or February.

“Flu activity generally jumps each season this way, but the frequency and depth with which it has hit is a lot higher than what we normally see this time of year,” he said.

Stacklin said it's hard to predict what's behind the trend but encourage flu shots and hand washing to prevent catching the virus. Prescription drugs like Tamiflu can help you feel better, sooner if you do contract the flu.

“We're seeing prescriptions for Tamiflu earlier, as the flu season has hit Northeast Ohio a bit sooner than usual,” Cleveland Clinic pharmacist Jennifer Sekeres said.

High demand means some local pharmacies are already experiencing Tamiflu shortages. Others have the drug in stock.

“At the Clinic we've been working very carefully with the manufacturer of Tamiflu and our wholesaler, and they have ensured us the manufacturer has adequate supply of the medication for the entire flu season,” Sekeres said.

Rite Aid said its local stores are not experiencing shortages at this time. Walgreens is seeing shortages at some locations. CVS didn’t yet respond to FOX 8’s inquiries.

It’s a good idea to call ahead to your pharmacy to make sure it has Tamiflu in stock before filling the prescription.

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