Jan 102013


By Michael Abramowitz

Thursday, January 10, 2013

One of the worst flu outbreaks in a decade left some Pitt County health providers with no more vaccine and others with a short supply on Wednesday.

“(The flu) hit early, there’s a lot of it and it’s bad,” Dr. John Morrow, county health director, told health board members on Tuesday at their monthly meeting.

The county health department ran out of all forms of its vaccine allotment earlier this week, Morrow said. The department requested more on Jan. 2, and will be furnished with a replenishment supply today from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a State Division of Public Health spokesman said.

“The state will resupply the county with more than 20,000 doses of flu mist (one of three dosage forms of the vaccine) and about 4,500 of other types that were ordered,” spokesman Mark Van Sciver said.

Some other area flu vaccination providers, including Vidant Medical Center, still have plenty of the vaccine, while others are either out or down to their last few doses, according to random reports.

The lab manager at Greenville Health Care Center said the center ran out of vaccine two weeks ago and has 350 more doses on order. Until then, their patients are being referred to local pharmacies for flu vaccinations, they said. The center’s satellite clinic in Bethel had one or two doses left on Wednesday, a representative said.

“Influenza-like illnesses this season are much higher than we’ve seen during the last 10 years,” Morrow said.

Realo/Carolina Home Medical pharmacist Brian Fulcher said his pharmacy gave its last of 700 injections this season on Tuesday, but has another 20 doses on order. The CVS pharmacy in Farmville has given more than 300 doses, with about 20 left and more on order, pharmacist Stacey Garner said. The Rite Aid pharmacy on Stantonsburg Road in Greenville distributed most of its allotment of 250 doses, with about 10 doses remaining, their pharmacist said.The Rite Aid in Winterville had about 10 intradermal doses left, with no more ordered, the pharmacist said.

The flu has blanketed the state and nation, Morrow said, with 48 of the 50 states reporting widespread incidence of the disease.

“If you want to be free of the flu, you have to move to Guam,” Morrow said. “That’s the only place in the U.S. right now where the flu has not hit.”

There have been 18 pediatric deaths from the disease nationwide, but none in North Carolina. All 14 of the state’s deaths have been among adults, most older than 65.

“Most of the deaths have occurred in people who were not vaccinated, or they were elderly, who, as we know, do not respond as well to the vaccine,” Morrow said.

Almost all seasonal flu occurring in North Carolina is Type A, H-3, which is well matched to the vaccine, Morrow said.

Flu diagnoses at Vidant Medical Center have far surpassed last year’s numbers, hospital officials said. So far this season, there have been 196 positive influenza lab tests. Last year, Vidant had a total of eight for the entire season, a representative said.

Due to the national flu outbreak, many hospitals, including Vidant Medical Center are experiencing shortages of the rapid influenza tests, said Dr. Keith Ramsey, professor of medicine at Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and medical director for infection control at Vidant Medical Center.

“We have a back-up test in place, however, that has been used for several years; thus, we retain the ability to diagnose flu among patients that present to us for care,” Ramsey said.

During the fall and winter, every inpatient older than 6 months old routinely is offered a flu shot before being discharged, a hospital official said.

“I don’t know if we’ve reached the peak yet,” Morrow said. “But I feel like we’re going to continue to see high rates for a while, based on what I’m hearing from doctors and emergency rooms, who are still seeing lots of patients.”

It is impossible to determine exactly how many people get the flu each year, including those who have been vaccinated, because many who get it do not go to a doctor, Morrow said.

Ramsey urged local residents to get vaccinated.

“It’s not too late,” he said. “Go get it.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9571.

via The Daily Reflector.


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