Oklahoma flu deaths rise to 74 this season

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OKLAHOMA - New numbers are out about this season's flu outbreak, and they're not good. So far, officials said 74 people have died from the flu since September 1. Two of those were in the past week.

Hospitalizations so far are over 2,000. It's been a terrible year for the flu, and it seems medicine is becoming harder to find.

"We are now seeing a shortage in the children's liquid. It is in the generic. We can still get it in the brand name, but it's more expensive,” said owner and pharmacist at Thrifty Pharmacy Dani Lynch.

Lynch said insurance will sometimes try to get parents to buy the generic even when it's not available at the stores.

"Parents are having to pay the cash price for this, and this is about $170 for one bottle," she said.

The generic capsules for adults are readily available and typically covered by insurance.

Lynch said she's seen an influx in customers with the flu after other pharmacies are out of stock.

“We have an influx at 6 o'clock just as we're about to close. They've been everywhere else,” she said.

A representative with CVS pharmacy said the company is not experiencing a widespread shortage:

"While CVS Pharmacy is not experiencing a widespread shortage of Tamiflu at this time, we are seeing increased demand at our stores nationwide. We’re continuing to supply stores with Tamiflu and other flu-related medications using our existing inventory network, but there may be instances when individual pharmacies could be temporarily out-of-stock. We are closely monitoring the situation and are working with suppliers to ensure our patients have access to available vaccine and flu-related medications. We recommend that patients call their local CVS Pharmacy in advance since inventory varies day to day."

A Walgreens spokesperson responded with this statement:

"Due to the recent spike in flu activity in Oklahoma City, we are experiencing greater demand for antiviral medications used to treat influenza. While we are taking additional measures in an effort to help meet patient demand at this time, some of our pharmacies in the area may not have all versions or strengths of Tamiflu available. We are expecting additional inventory at our pharmacies within the coming days, and in the meantime recommend customers call ahead to confirm availability (of Tamiflu)."

Lynch said a concoction of Sambucol and Oscillococcinum being shared on social media doesn't work.

"It's a duck liver extract with some duck liver heart. There's nothing that this will do. It's been around for years and years and years for other scams," she said.

Tamiflu or the generic are your best bets for lessening the symptoms and length of sickness for an unusually high flu outbreak.

"So, we are seeing probably our most intense flu season since we've started keeping track of flu hospitalizations and deaths during the 2009-10 pandemic,” said Kendra Dougherty, flu surveillance coordinator at the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

Last week showed the highest rate of people testing positive for the flu this season.

While 65 and older has seen the most flu deaths this season, three people between the ages of 18-49 have also died.

"It's not something you ever want to take lightly. Just because you feel like you're a healthy person, you still need to get the flu shot. You still need to do your personal protective things we've talked about all season long,” Dougherty said.

Here's another startling statistic: there were 23 deaths the week of January 9 alone.

On top of washing your hands and staying home from school and work, when you're sick, officials with the health department said it's best to get good rest and exercise regularly.

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