Dec 112003
 
Authors: Taylour Nelson

Flu season has hit hard this year and manufacturers have started

to run out of the vaccine supply, despite decreasing statewide flu

cases.

This week 1,294 people contracted the flu, half as many new

cases as last week.

However, this year’s numbers are much higher than those in the

past

“We have seen more cases reported so far this year than all of

last year,” said Ann Watson, a health education supervisor for the

Larimer County Department of Health.

And the flu season has still not hit its peak, compared to those

in the past said Lisa Duggan, immunization and infection control

nurse at Hartshorn Health Center.

In previous years, the flu season started around November or

December and ended in February or March, with most people

contracting the illness in late January and early February.

Duggan said each flu season is very individual and

unpredictable.

“What (this flu season) is going to do in the future, no one can

really predict,” she said.

At Hartshorn Health Service, 354 patients were diagnosed with

flu or influenza-like illnesses between Nov. 1 and Dec 6 of this

year.

Last year, between Nov. 2 and Dec. 7, the health center saw only

three patients with influenza-like illnesses.

These numbers are comparable to Larimer County, where close to

644 people have been diagnosed with the flu as of Wednesday,

compared to last year’s 262, Watson said. Statewide, 7,600 people

have contracted the flu.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70

to 75 million Americans receive a flu shot in a typical year. This

year manufacturers produced close to 83 million vaccines and have

already begun to run out of supplies in the United States. Never

before has America used more than 80 million flu shots in a single

season.

“The supplies are running very low, there are few left at the

health department and many clinics are already out,” Watson said of

Larimer County’s supply.

There has been a high demand for flu shots at CSU this year as

well, Duggan said.

Hartshorn has administered a total of 3,850 vaccinations this

year, almost twice the number given last year.

Duggan attributes the high demand for the vaccine to many

factors, including the onset of an early flu season, more media

attention that the virus might be worse this year and a new strain

of the virus called Fujian type ‘A’.

The new strain has drifted from this year’s flu virus. The

vaccinations are not specifically designed for Fujian type ‘A,’ and

more people are able contract the flu, even after receiving a

vaccine.

“A lot of the population have not been exposed to the new strain

and are getting the flu,” Watson said.

With vaccine supplies running low, Duggan has been forced to

turn some students away.

“We have a few doses left for extremely high-risk patients who

can’t take Flumist,” she said.

FluMist, a new spray vaccine this year, is not recommended for

patients with chronic health problems. It has the same effect as

the flu shot but in the form of a nasal spray, with a higher cost

of $55.

Once a patient has contracted the virus, there are antiviral

medications that can be prescribed to lessen the symptoms and

duration of the illness, but these have recently run low in supply

as well.

Judy Holzwart, a pharmacist at Hartshorn, said the manufacturer

that supplies one of the more popular antiviral drugs at the health

center ran out of its supply. Therefore Hartshorn had to order from

an alternative company because of the high number of

prescriptions.

“We went through 700 tablets of one type in a week,” she

said.

Holzwart added that the antiviral medications are now completely

in stock at the health center and can be prescribed to patients who

have already contracted the flu.

CSU cases:

2003- 354 influenza-like cases between Nov. 1 and Dec. 6

2002- 3 influenza-like cases between Nov. 2 and Dec. 7

Administered 3,850 vaccinations this year

2,000 vaccinations last year (2002)

Larimer County cases:

2003- 644 confirmed flu cases as of Wednesday

2002-2003 season-262 flu cases total

Received 4,600 does of the vaccine, only have 350 to 400 doses

left.

Last year gave out 2,600.

State of Colorado cases:

7,600 confirmed flu cases this year as of Dec. 10

2,681 confirmed flu cases during the 2002-2003 flu season

Increases in Colorado state cases this year:

November 17 — 694 confirmed flu cases

November 19 — 1,525

November 24 — 2,648

November 26 — 3.957

December 3 — 6,306

December 10 — 7,600

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