As the flu season drags on, there is a shortage of antiviral drugs.
Federal health officials warned on Friday that the peak of the flu season could be weeks away.
“We may be breaking some recent records,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the centers for disease control and prevention. Flu pandemics have been reported in almost all states, with less reporting from Oregon and Hawaii.
“The flu is very unpredictable and we don’t know if we’ve reached the peak,” Schuchat said in a phone call with reporters. “We can still see a few more weeks of activity.”
Health officials do not directly calculate the number of flu cases and deaths in the general population. They did track the children’s deaths, which climbed to 63 this season.
Another measure is the percentage of deaths from flu or pneumonia, usually associated with the flu. Last week, a tenth of all deaths reported in the United States were caused by flu or pneumonia.
The incidence of flu is similar to that of the last influenza pandemic in 2009, Schuchat said, “although that doesn’t mean we’re having an influenza pandemic.”
However, two other strains are increasing, and they usually cause milder symptoms. They are also more likely to be prevented by the flu vaccine. So, Schuchat said, it’s not too late to get vaccinated.
The centers for disease control and prevention recommends the use of antiviral drugs, such as tamiflu, or oseltamivir, for susceptible people infected with the flu. These groups include young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with heart or lung problems.
There is a shortage of antiviral drugs, Schuchat said. People looking for them may need to call multiple pharmacies to fill their prescriptions.
The CDC has been working with insurers and pharmacies to ease these shortages and to provide brand-name drugs at lower costs without generic drugs.
“I hope there will be better news this week,” shu said.