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Flu Shortage Q & A

Flu Shortage Q & A

Posted - Oct. 7, 2004 at 12:42 p.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingThe US government says recent events in England are leading to a flu shortage in this country. Federal health inspectors are in Britain investigating the situation that led to this shortage.

It’s unknown right now if any of the vaccines can be salvaged, but it is a possibility

We do know problems at the vaccine facility in England began in August with about six million doses contaminated with a type of bacteria called serratia. The FDA is now investigating the extent of the problem at the factory. It’s too soon to tell whether any doses will be salvaged. In the meantime, healthy adults have been asked to take a breath and do the right thing -- don't ask for a flu shot right now, and let the most vulnerable get in line first.

Just do the math. Seventy-three million Americans fall into high risk categories. And this flu season, only about fifty-five million doses will be available.

Those most vulnerable include people over 65, those with chronic medical conditions, babies 6-23 months of age, and all pregnant women.

So, you may ask, f they can identify the problem, why can't they make more vaccine? It's a slow and tedious process which has been around for fifty years. In fact, there are calls to update this system. It requires millions of chicken eggs, a lot of guess work, and nearly a year's lead time to produce each year's new vaccine

What about getting flu-mist? Is that an option for healthy people? Flu-mist is nasal spray vaccine is only recommended for healthy people ages five to 49, and not for anyone in a high risk group. Even so, there are only about a million doses available and it’s probably best used for health care providers, and family members of high risk patients.

What about preventing the flu. Are there drugs you can take? There are three antiviral drugs that can prevent the flu and four that can treat it. But they don't work on all strains, and you have to start them early.

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