High demand has flu vaccine in short supply

January 13, 2013 8:25:05 PM PST
Those late getting their flu shot could get shut out as the vaccine is in low supply due to high demand.

This week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said influenza has reached epidemic proportions in the United States and Chicago area has not been spared.

Sunday at Loyola University Medical Center's emergency room in Maywood there is calm, despite one of the worst flu seasons we've seen in a while.

"I would say about mid-December we started to see a rise in cases suspected for influenza," said Dr. Peg Grano, Loyola University Medical Center emergency room.

Some health officials say the Midwest is one of the regions in the country with elevated flu activity.

And like the nation, Chicago is suffering.

Common symptoms include sore throat, high fever, cough, body aches and fatigue.

Sammie Foster had the flu for nine days.

"I couldn't do anything but stay inside 'cause it was bad," Foster said. "Your stomach hurts, your legs hurt, everything hurts. You're just miserable."

The outbreak is so severe, the concerned are doing whatever they can to avoid getting sick. Hand sanitizer remains a common sight at sweet Holy Spirit Baptist Church on the city's South Side.

"What we try to do from prevention method is try to wash our hands quite a bit and use a lot of the hand sanitizers that we have available here on the premises," said church goer Tony Goodwin.

According to the Illinois Department of Health, so far this year there have been 368 flu-related intensive care unit hospitalizations, with 27 flu-related ICU deaths.

A majority of the hospitalizations and deaths are of people in their 50s and older.

Pharmacy chains also saw an increase in business because of those looking for the flu vaccine.

Meanwhile, Dr. Grano and the emergency room remain ready for the next wave of sufferers as she reiterates how important it is for children, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems to be protected against the flu.

"I strongly recommend the flu shot even though the flu season has hit. It will still be of benefit," she said.

Health officials say it's not too late to get a flu shot since the flu season typically runs through March and sometimes later.

It is recommended for everyone six months and older.