Although state and local health officials are urging residents to get flu shots, that might be easier said than done in Allen County.
A pharmacy assistant at the Walgreens pharmacy at Lima and Cook roads said Wednesday afternoon that most Walgreens stores in the Fort Wayne area were out of flu vaccines.
Six of 10 area CVS pharmacies The Journal Gazette called were out of vaccines and one, on Calhoun Street, was giving the vaccine only to those older than 65.
All three Meijer locations were out of the vaccine, and a technician at the Maysville Road store said he did not expect to receive any more shipments.
An employee of the Walgreen pharmacy on Indiana 3 said that while they had placed orders for more vaccine, they had received no guarantee of when those orders would arrive. And a pharmacist at Kroger on Dupont Road said while they had just received a shipment, the shipments usually lasted about a day.
The state’s ongoing flu outbreak has claimed 27 lives, including two in Allen County. Seventeen of those deaths were reported during the past week, and nine of those who died had received flu vaccine shots.
Twenty of the people who died had underlying medical conditions such as heart disease, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.
Lutheran Health Network has a limited supply of Tamiflu to meet the needs of admitted patients, hospital spokesman Geoff Thomas said.
It is not available to the general public and exact quantities fluctuate based on utilization and delivery schedules from our suppliers, he said.
RediMed urgent care clinics also have varying amounts of flu shots available to the general public, he said.
The best thing to do is call ahead to the pharmacy or clinic of choice and check on availability.
In Indianapolis, city health officials have asked area hospitals to implement a policy developed in 2009 during the H1N1 pandemic after emergency centers experienced a 69 percent increase in flu-like illnesses during the past week. The policy prohibits people with flu-like illnesses from visiting hospital patients. Additionally, visits are restricted to immediate family, partners and significant others. Visitors younger than 18 are required to make special arrangements to see a patient.
Munster and Evansville hospitals also have adopted similar visitor policies during the outbreak.
No new directives have yet been given by the Indiana State Department of Health, said John Silcox, spokesman for the Fort Wayne-Allen County Department of Health.
Silcox said local officials continue to monitor the situation and track the numbers.
Obviously, we are aware there’s quite a bit of flu activity, and we are urging everyone to take extra precautions, Silcox said.
Parkview Health does not have any restrictions in place at this time, spokesman Eric Clabaugh said. We are monitoring the situation closely, having regular conversations with the Allen County Department of Health, and at this time we feel the precautions we are taking are appropriate, Clabaugh said.
Those precautions include making hand sanitizer available throughout the hospitals, and offering masks to visitors and patients, he said.
If the situation calls for more action, we’re prepared to do what is necessary, and we will work with the Allen County Department of Health to come up with the appropriate actions, Clabaugh said.
Lutheran Health officials have not altered hospital visitation policies but are urging anyone with flu-like symptoms to consider staying home until the symptoms have disappeared.
Their hospitals and clinics retained much of the protocol, practices and readiness that were initiated during the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2009 H1N1 flu virus outbreak, Thomas said.
Kiosks near each doorway supply visitors with masks, hand sanitizer and tissues.
The recommendation to stay home applies to anyone who may be considering a trip out in public or to work while they are sick, he said.
The very young, elderly and anyone with compromised immune systems are most susceptible to catching the flu, Thomas said. We can all do our part to help keep our family, friends, co-workers and neighbors well.
TipsGet a seasonal flu shot, if available
Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
Avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth, where germs are easily spread
Try to avoid close contact with sick people
Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; throw the tissue in the trash after use
When leaving a public restroom, take a new paper towel and use it to turn the doorknob when exiting; throw the paper towel in the trash after use
For more information on flu prevention, go to www.fighttheflu.org