Worst Flu Epidemic in Three Decades Continues to Plague Lubbock - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/19/03

Worst Flu Epidemic in Three Decades Continues to Plague Lubbock

"It seems to be in this area somewhat of an epidemic and it's earlier than it's been in the last several years," says Mark Johnson, MD. He says the flu bug is swarming worse than ever before. The number of patients looking for relief are so many that doctors are running tests for flu on patients not once, but twice.

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"Just the other day I had 4 or 5 patients that we tested for flu and they were all positive and it was so much that I was beginning to wonder if we were getting false positives but they are all accurate.," says Dr. Johnson.

Even the Lubbock Health Department is flooded daily with patients desperate for some kind of relief.

"We have been seeing an average of about 75-80 patients a day, up to 200 a day ad the majority of those people are receiving a flu shot," says Becky Brawley with the Lubbock Health Department.

More than half of sick patients are school children. Superintendent for Lubbock Independent School District, Wayne Havens says daily absences are more than twice the normal average of 1200 students. Tuesday, nearly 2400 students were absent, most of them with the flu.

"You're always gonna have periods during a time where certain illnesses will come in and really impact your attendance so this year it's just a little earlier," says Havens.

And if you're looking to treat the flu with medication, local pharmacist, Shelley Simpson says you may be out of luck.

"Doctors and patients call looking for the liquid and we just tell them we don't have it right now," says Simpson.

Shortages of Tamiflu and Flumadine, the two most popular flu medications are flying off the shelves. And pharmacists are struggling to get more from manufacturers.

"We've got in on backorder with wholesalers. When they get it in we'll have it in," says Simpson.

Doctors say the flu season is months from being over. Your best bet to fight the flu is to get a flu shot. Rumors have been spreading about the flu vaccine being ineffective against this year's flu strain. Dr. David Waagner with the Texas Tech School of Medicine says that is not true. The flu vaccine will offer adequate protection against getting the flu this year.

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