As Flu Cases Rise, Biden Administration Increases Access to Tamiflu

Flu spikes are common during cold winter months in the United States, but this year it is coming earlier than expected. The increased count of Americans with the flu led to action from the Biden Administration on Wednesday.

Key takeaways:
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    Tamiflu is made available via the Strategic National Stockpiles to states whose stockpiles are depleted.
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    With winter just arriving, Americans are in for a long flu season with already high estimations of hospitalizations.
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    Flu symptoms can range in severity, making it important to be safe and receive your seasonal flu vaccine.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) responded yesterday to rising numbers of Americans falling ill to the flu. HHS announced additional supplies of Tamiflu from the Strategic National Stockpile, in combination with flexibility announced on state stockpiles last week.

The HHS will work with regional Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) teams to distribute the Tamiflu to the states, territories, and tribes that submit requests.

Estimates by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from Oct. 1, 2022, through Dec. 10, 2022, are concerning. They include:

  • 15 - 33 million flue illnesses
  • 7.3 - 16 million medical visits
  • 150,000 - 330,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 9,300 - 28,000 flu deaths

Tamiflu is a prescription medication used to help assist with the flu (influenza) in anyone over 2 weeks old. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra praised the decision in a Wednesday press release.

"We have made it clear to every Governor that the Biden-Harris Administration stands ready to assist with resources and supplies,... Today we are taking action so that every jurisdiction can meet the increased demand for Tamiflu this flu season. State stockpiles can be utilized, and if jurisdictions need access to the Strategic National Stockpile, they now have it to respond to the current seasonal flu outbreak."

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra

While Tamiflu may be beneficial for some struggling with flu-like symptoms, it is recommended to receive your seasonal flu vaccine. People over the age of 65 may require over-standard dose flu vaccines, a worry not needed by those that fall below the age group

The elderly are at an increased risk of dealing with serious complications from the flu due to decreased efficiency in the immune system. The CDC estimates between 75% and 85% of seasonal flu deaths occur in individuals over the age of 65. Specific vaccine recommendations are available on the CDC website.

How do I know I have the flu?

Symptoms of the flu can differ. A fever does not always have to be present with the flu. Some symptoms may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, fatigue, and diarrhea — more common in children.

Other than obtaining your flu vaccine, there are other preventive measures that can be taken on a daily bases. Stay from friends or family that may be sick this holiday season, or the reverse if you feel any flu-like symptoms.

Wash your hands with soap and warm water. Also, avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes with your hands — this is an easy way for germs to spread. Clean counters or other surfaces at home or work that possibly are contaminated.

If symptoms continue to persist, antiviral medications like Tamiflu may be made available after consoling with a physician. It is best to act fast within two days after the onset of symptoms. Those at a higher risk of catching the flu are also able to receive antivirals before getting sick — still, flu vaccines are recommended, and antivirals are not a suitable replacement

Flu vs. COVID-19

The flu is caused by the influenza virus, usually occurring in the winter with different strains. COVID-19 on the other hand is caused by SARS-Cov-2. With both sets of symptoms being so similar, a test is required to determine which virus is present. Along with the flu, COVID-19 cases are also increasing as colder weather inches closer.

Along with taking on the increase in flu cases, the Biden administration announced new measures to combat COVID-19 this winter last week on Dec. 15. After suspending COVIDTests.gov in the summer, the administration has relaunched the website for the winter.

Americans will be able to order up to four at-home tests with shipping already in progress. The Biden administration encourages Americans to get their most updated COVID-19 vaccine. Based on data from the CDC, nearly half of all U.S. counties are reporting medium to high levels of COVID-19.

When asked about inserting mandates for masking on planes, or vaccine requirements, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ashish Jha pointed to those being out of the question due to increased knowledge of the virus.

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