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Shortage of medicine used to treat flu

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- The flu is hitting the Borderland hard this year, but getting medicine may be difficult.

Doctors said there's a national shortage of Tamiflu -- a prescription medication used to treat the flu. Tamiflu comes in both pill and liquid forms; if someone is looking to get the liquid form, though, health care professionals said it may be hard to come by this month.

"Some stores have run out quickly because we've had a humongous influx of Flu A and we've got H1N1 flu, said Michael Jacobs, a nurse practitioner at Summit Urgent Care in east El Paso.

The liquid form of Tamiflu is typically given to children 2-weeks-old to 12-years-old. It's also used for people who have problems swallowing pills and "some of our elders who have gastric problems who can't digest capsules," said Jacobs.

Many people don't take the drug and simply ride out the flu.

"I sleep it off, and try to eat and be comfortable. It's not a pleasant experience," said John Pisano, west El Paso.

Going untreated, however, isn't something health care professionals recommended.

"We have seen consequences. We've seen pneumonias, we've seen sinus infections, ear infections," said Jacobs.

For people who need the liquid form of Tamiflu, Jacobs said there is something people can do.

"You can open the Tamiflu, it's just a very, very bitter medication so if you can't swallow pills and you're forced with the capsule you can open it up, mix it in with something sweet like yogurt and get it down," said Jacobs.

Health care professionals said it's still not too late for people to take precautions and get the flu vaccine. For people who waited this long to get the shot, however, they may run into some problems this year.

"Some of the pharmacies or some of the offices may run out," said Jacobs.

Jacobs said it's not because there's a shortage of the vaccine, it's because people are getting the shot late in the season.

"I get one every year. Generally about February," said Kyle Lambert, of east El Paso.

Doctors said shipments of the vaccine aren't coming in as quickly as needed. If someone goes to the pharmacy and their vaccine isn't available, people are urged to call other pharmacies until they find one who has it in stock.

"We've seen some consequences with the (virus). It's better to be treated," said Jacobs.

The Borderland should start seeing fewer flu cases by the end of February and health care professionals said the virus typically goes away for the year by March, when it gets warmer outside.


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