Influenza illnesses across America has dropped in the past two weeks, but the general peak season of February is around the corner, with supplies of vaccines dropping in counties across the country. Scares over the past two weeks in Canada could repeat itself in the U.S.
On Jan. 17, CDC released data that showed influenza outpatient visits over the past two weeks has continually dropped to 3.6 percent from the high of 4.6 percent during late December.
However, people should not let their guard down as typically the flu seasons reaches its peak in February which is just around the corner.
It was only 10 days ago on Jan. 9 that Boston declared an emergency, after 700 confirmed cases of influenza since October was reported, which is 10 times more than all of last year’s 70 cases. This was just an example of various influenza crises across the U.S.
The pandemic flu this year is notable for hitting the age groups of 18 to 49 and 50 to 64, unusual for a flu season that normally attacks the elderly, yet expected considering the dominant strain of H1N1 and how it attacks younger age groups.
People are encouraged to get immunized, especially the young. However, vaccine shortages could be a problem. Tom Skinner, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman, told NBC news that there is still enough vaccine to go around, but people will have to make a few calls to get it.
In the same NBC report, Sanofi Pasteur a supplier of half of the flu vaccines in the U.S. said that they had sold out of four of six variations for season flu vaccine because of high, late demand. However, there are still some vaccines available for children and adults.
As of Jan. 4, 128 million doses of 135 million produced this season have been distributed across the country, according to CDC stats.
Various locations across the United States have already run out of vaccines. WSMV News reports that county health departments in Tennessee has been seeing a declining supply of vaccines. It was reported on Jan. 17 that health departments in Rutherford, Sumner, Williamson, and Cheatham would be completely out of flu vaccines by Friday evening, no report is available on whether they have. In Nashville and other counties across Tennessee, there were more than 400 hospitalized and 14 dead from the flu as of Friday Jan. 17.
Furthermore, on Jan. 15 the Wallowa County Health Department in Oregon reported to have run out of influenza vaccine for the city, with a health department assistant stating their last shot was given on the 14th.
What is happening north of the border in particular gives even more reason to get immunized before it is too late. On Jan. 09 The Huffington Post reported that Alberta was running out of H1N1 influenza vaccines, with a possibility that there will be no more left on the planet. The final doses was reported by Alberta Health Services to have been obtained from an Italian manufacture. The last update was that the vaccines would have run out by Friday the 17th.
Of most concern was a report last week which found that the British Columbia Center for Disease Control was nearing the end of its supply of H1N1 flu vaccines. They encouraged people to get vaccinated before that occurred. What is alarming of this is that the province ordered 1.4 million vaccines for this season, which is a provincial record, driven by the severity of the current influenza strain. Yet, vaccines have run short.
If annual trends are any indication, the flu season could peak in February and run through March and April. The seriousness of this years flu cannot be emphasized and immunization is encouraged.
By Kollin Lore