- The Washington Times - Friday, December 12, 2003

From combined wire reports

DENVER (AP) — The flu scare and subsequent vaccine shortage has people flocking to their local drug stores to stock up on over-the-counter remedies.

Nyquil, Tylenol, Robitussin, Advil, Tamiflu — with the flu vaccine running out and the number of flu cases climbing, drug stores and online companies around the country are reporting brisk sales of both over-the-counter remedies and prescription drugs in the past few weeks.

The number of states hit hard by the flu has doubled to 24 over the past week and now includes most of the western half of the country. Nationwide, at least 20 children have died in what could become the worst flu season in years.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people lined up for free flu shots yesterday, and some hospitals were discouraging visitors after officials announced the flu had spread to all 50 states, nearly half of those considered hit hard by the illness.

One of the hardest hit communities was Malad, Idaho, a town of about 2,000 near the Utah state line that virtually shut down in the past week because so many people were ill. Church services and Christmas programs were canceled, as was the wrestling match and drill team show. Even Santa had to postpone his visit with the children.

Bundled in coats and under blankets outside the West Oaks Mall in Ocoee, Fla., near Orlando, 300 to 400 people waited for a chance at the remaining free flu vaccines there, even though the flu is not considered widespread in Florida.

The federal government announced Thursday it is scrambling to ship 100,000 adult vaccine doses to combat the shortages, hoping to head off what could become one of the worst flu outbreaks in years, and 150,000 child vaccine doses are expected in January.

Health officials are unsure why the outbreak has hit so early, why it has caused so many problems and why it seems to be so lethal in children. States are not required to track the number of flu cases, so the exact total is not clear; however, at least 20 children have died nationwide during the outbreak.


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