SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – An additional supply of Tamiflu is to be made available to Massachusetts to keep up with the volume of flu cases.
According to the CDC’s Weekly US Map: Influenza Summary Update, Massachusetts is one of the seven states where flu cases remain high. Dr. Armando Paez, Chief of Infectious Disease Physician in Springfield says, “in the public domain, we are still in the very higher range of about 8% flu-like or influenza-like illnesses needing medical attention.”
Dr. Paez explains why there has been a rapid amount of flu cases. “The flu spreads primarily by the respiratory route, so during the cold season… when gathered together, indoors particularly… there is an increased risk of transmitting flu virus in this setting,” he said. “The weather contributes to that human activity. Once the flu sets in, there is still a possibility for it to transmit.”
After an increase in flu cases, the higher demand for Tamiflu led to a low supply. Which has been seen in some pharmacies within the Springfield area, Dr. Paez says there is still a critical shortage of capsules for Tamiflu. On December 21st, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) made the announcement to reduce the burden on healthcare systems and keep everyone healthy this winter, by making Tamiflu available for use in state stockpiles to stop the flu virus from growing.
Dr. Paez says the distribution of the antiviral drug goes to the most vulnerable populations first like the elderly and those with health conditions that can be exposed to complications like bacterial superinfection.
WebMD indicates that with the help of Tamiflu, flu symptoms can be treated or prevented. “It’s been shown to inhibit an enzyme of the virus that prevents it from shedding more virus,” said Dr. Paez. Symptoms like stuffy nose, cough, sore throat, fever/chills, aches, and tiredness become less severe.
“It’s also been proven to decrease the duration of symptoms,” Dr. Paez adds. Recovery time is lessened to 1-2 days. Tamiflu, however, isn’t to be substituted with the flu vaccine.
HSS has been and continues to work on expanding access to Tamiflu and all other medicines that are in high demand. “In relation to the flu trend right now, we are seeing obviously any medication to reduce the symptoms of flu-like illness in really high demand is reported to be in shortage,” Dr. Paez mentioned. “Fever-reducing medications, pain-reducing medications, and even antibiotics… insulin and suspension for pediatrics are reported to be in short supply.”