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Just How Severe Is This Flu Season?
Date:1/16/2013

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 16 (HealthDay News) -- If the headlines are any indication, this year's flu season is turning out to be a whopper.

Boston and New York state have declared states of emergency, vaccine supplies are running out in spots, and some emergency departments are overwhelmed. And the drug Tamiflu, used to treat flu symptoms, is reportedly in short supply.

But is the situation as bad as it seems? The bottom line: It's too early in the flu season to say for sure, according to health experts.

Certainly there are worrying signs.

"This year there is a higher number of positive tests coming back," said Dr. Lewis Marshall Jr., chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City. "Emergency rooms are experiencing an influx of people. People are trying to find the vaccine and having a hard time due to the fact that it's so late in the vaccination season."

But the vaccine is still available, said Dr. Margaret Hamburg, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, in a statement Tuesday.

"[The] FDA has approved influenza vaccines from seven manufacturers, and collectively they have produced an estimated 135 million doses of this season's flu vaccine for the U.S.," Hamburg said. "We have received reports that some consumers have found spot shortages of the vaccine. We are monitoring this situation."

Consumers can go to flu.gov to find local sources for flu shots, including clinics, supermarkets and pharmacies, she said.

For people who have the flu, she said, "be assured that [the] FDA is working to make sure that medicine to treat flu symptoms is available for all who need it. We do anticipate intermittent, temporary shortages of the oral suspension form of Tamiflu -- the liquid version often prescribed for children -- for the remainder of the flu season. However, [the]FDA i
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