ATLANTA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a news briefing Friday on the worsening influenza outbreak. The CDC said this is the first time in 13 years every state in the continental U.S. is being hit with widespread flu.
The CDC said they aren't sure how severe this flu season will end up being, but the number of related deaths continues to increase. Friday, the agency said seven more children have died from flu complications, bringing the total number to 20 pediatric deaths.
According to the CDC, there has been a jump in hospitalizations in young children and people over 50.
Officials said the current flu vaccine has little effect on the H3N2 strain that leads to particularly severe symptoms. Early findings show it will provide about 30 percent protection, which isn't very good. That being said, the CDC still said getting a flu shot is one of the best steps you should take. While you should've gotten the shot weeks, if not a few months ago, it's not too late.
Federal health officials cite the bad winter weather, holiday travel and the severe H3N2 strain for the high number of hospitalizations in the state and nationwide.
Health officials describe the pronounced symptoms of the H3N2 strain which include extreme fatigue, body aches, and a respiratory infection which could last days. The symptoms of body aches, fatigue, and respiratory symptoms are especially severe, leading more people to seek hospital treatment.
If you do start feeling under the weather, go to the doctor right away. There are antiviral medicines that can lessen the impact and duration of the flu. To be truly effective, a person needs to start taking those drugs within two days of getting sick.
The CDC cautioned Friday that we could still have three months left in flu season.
As we continue to see the number of people diagnosed with the flu increase we are also seeing pharmacies running low and in some cases running out of the antiviral drugs used to shorten the duration of the flu.
FOX 5 called several pharmacies in the metro Atlanta Friday, all of which said they were running low on the drugs.
"It's just flying off the shelves," Erin Winter said.
Erin Winter is a pharmacist at Wender and Roberts Drugs in Buckhead. Winter told FOX 5 this year's flu season is unlike any other.
"It's been many years since we've seen it this bad," Winter said. "Today alone we've seen 5-6 Tamiflu prescriptions come in and last flu season between October to January we filled only two Tamiflu prescriptions so a huge increase this year."
It's not that they don't have enough Tamiflu in stock, Winter said, the uptick is even causing suppliers to run out.
"We've seen some on and off shortages but we have seen the warehouse show zero for Tamiflu quantity on hand," Winter said.
According to the Georgia Department of Public Health four people have died as a result of the flu, 300 Georgians have been hospitalized and hospital systems in the state are seeing a major increase in the number of people being diagnosed with the flu.