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Tamiflu reserved for the sickest, but it's not the only drug, doctor says

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

Many people got a flu shot this year hoping they'd be protected from an epidemic that seems to have settled in Louisiana.

“What happened is, a virus can do what's called a drift, where they mutate. H3N2 mutated,” says Dr. Eric Griggs.

While the vaccine covers some strains, it doesn't cover them all. A Centers for Disease Control map from Nov. 22 singles out Louisiana and Alaska as states with the most widespread cases of influenza.

In less than a month's time, a map from Dec. 13 shows more than half of the U.S. dealing with a widespread outbreak.

“It all depends on the nature of the virus and how sanitary people are in their daily lives, so there was definitely a spike,” says Griggs.

Griggs says when patients first experience symptoms of the flu, they're usually prescribed the anti-viral medication Tamiflu.

“With a stable supply and an increase of demand, you're going to run into a shortage. They were predicting this in October when it first started,” he says.

Griggs says doctors are now advised to only prescribe the drug for the sickest and highest-risk patients since it's still early in the flu season. Genetech, the maker of Tamiflu, says there is an ample supply of the drug. You can read the full statement here.

Griggs says shortage or no shortage, there's no reason to panic.

“Tamiflu is not unique. There's another one called Rulenza, so if there's a shortage of Tamiflu there is another drug out there. You do have to be careful with Rulenza when dealing with the very young and those with respiratory diseases,” Griggs says.

He says there are ways to get around it, but there are also things that everyone can do to avoid catching the flu in the first place.

“Wash your hands. Wash your hands, and when you remember, wash your hands,” says Griggs.

Griggs says if you do get sick, stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks.

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