Could Arkansas see a Flu medicine shortage?

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - We're seeing less flu in the United States, but it is spread out more.

Geographically it has spread to more locations. Two weeks ago, 41 states were seeing widespread activity. Now, six more states - 47 total - say they're seeing flu in various regions of their state, according to new numbers released Friday morning by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A CDC official says the numbers are the mark of a "classic flu epidemic."

Here in Arkansas, flu cases have blanketed the state. There's no clear indication that the outbreak is on the decline and the surge in influenza cases has had an effect on drug and vaccine supplies across the U.S.

Channel 7 News called about 15 local pharmacies. All are swamped. It truly depends on where you go whether they are close to running out. The good news - they are all confident they can get more medicine as needed.

Whether at the doctor's office or in line at the pharmacy, patients are encouraged to be patient as we have entered flu season with significantly more folks sporting itchy watery eyes, coughing and fever.

Pharmacist Kammy Krisell says, "We've been getting calls from patients wanting to treat the flu symptoms. Wanting to know exactly what the flu symptoms are."

Krisell opened the Corner Stone Pharmacy on JFK in North Little Rock last month, just in time for the influx.

Arkansas hasn't experienced the shortage, even lack of Tamiflu and vaccines other states are feeling, but pharmacies have been informed of a delay in shipments for the liquid form of children's Tamiflu. "But there is a way we can compound capsules for the adults as a substitute."

You can attempt to make a doctor's appointment, but for the mild flu signs"We treat symptoms, Krisell explains. "You can do Tylenol for the aches and pains; you can do cough syrups like the Robitussin DM, and so on to help with the congestion in the chest and the coughing."

If you catch the symptoms in the first 48-hours, doctors can prescribe certain medication that can help shorten the number of days you're sick. Also, for tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing, you need to consider going to the doctor because pneumonia could be setting in.

Ed Barham with the Arkansas Department of Health, nine people, including one child, have died from the virus this flu season. In 2009, 54 people died from the flu in Arkansas. But it's difficult to measure, because the flu isn't always listed as cause of death on a death certificate. So the number could actually be higher. Barham says there are no particular hot spots for the flu across the state but called the outbreak "even and steady and bad."

It is not too late to get a vaccine. For the story on the effectiveness on the flu vaccine, click here.