Flu cases rising in central Indiana, Tamiflu availability dropping

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By Lindy Thackston

INDIANAPOLIS (December 23, 2014) - The flu is already hitting central Indiana hard. You probably know someone who has it by now.

Even those who rolled up their sleeves for the shot aren't in the clear. That's because a strain of the flu called H3N2 has become less responsive to the vaccine.

Doctors are expecting to see more people sick this year and more demand for Tamiflu.

Tamiflu is one of the two drugs approved for treatment of influenza virus A. Hoosier families are reporting they're struggling to find it.

Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health is stocked on Tuesday if you need some because they got a shipment in on Monday.

"It’s always guesswork for flu season," said Elaine Cox, Medical Director for Infection Prevention at Riley. "What will the vaccine look like and how much Tamiflu will we need? Right now we’re using a lot of Tamiflu, but we have been told by the manufacturer they have plenty of supply, it’s just getting it delivered to the places it needs to get and to wholesalers. We’re hoping that with the delay In delivery, that they’ll be able to catch up in the next week so that everybody will have enough."

"The problem with it is, it’s gotten a little bit smarter and done what we call drifted, which means it’s not as responsive to the vaccine as we had planned for or hoped," said Cox. "So even people who got the flu shot are getting cases of the flu, although milder than they would have gotten had they not had the flu shot."

"It’s interesting that the H3N2 strain likes the population that we don’t normally associate with getting really sick from the flu," said Cox. "People from about 15 to 45 seem to be the hardest hit as opposed to the extremes of age which we usually see."

Cox says if you feel yourself getting sick, stay home. Obviously that could be hard around the holidays with many people visiting family. Cox says the way to know if you should skip it is if you have a fever.

"The other thing is you should stay away from vulnerable people. So those patients who are on chemotherapy, or have asthma or are at the extremes of age, if you are ill, you should limit your exposure."

She also says droplets can only travel about three feet, so always cough in your sleeve or elbow, never in your hands. And keep your hands clean. Wash them often.

Cox says if you get sick, don't wait to go to the doctor.

"There are medications that can actually decrease the symptoms of the flu, can keep you out of the hospital and can result in quicker recovery. And when you recover faster, you infect less people and we can get the epidemics under control."