MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - The flu has become so widespread the CDC is urging physicians to prescribe antiviral medicines to more patients.
Doctors say they don't normally like to prescribe anti-viral medicines like Tamiflu until a patient tests positive with the flu. But, because the vaccine this year hasn't been as effective as it normally is, the CDC says if someone comes into the office with symptoms, they should get the medicine.
"We were hit pretty hard pretty rapidly," says Winona McLamb, Director of Health and Education for the Grand Strand Medical Center. And every year, experts predict the strain of flu that will hit, then they tailor the vaccine to the prediction, and often they're close. "Other years there may be more of a drift, and that's what we're seeing this year. That we're seeing a little bit different strain and it's not as effective."
So the CDC says during this year in particular, it's more important than usual for doctors to treat certain patients with Tamiflu or other antiviral medications. McLamb agrees, "People are getting sicker. There have been deaths reported."
In a hospital like the Grand Strand Medical Center, physicians can tell whether you've got the virus with a simple swab. But McLamb says not all offices have access to equipment that gives rapid response. "Some family practice offices may not have access to a rapid screen. And if that patient presents flu-like symptoms...instead of waiting to get a screen that may take a couple days to get back in that setting, go ahead and treat them with the Tamiflu if they have classic flu-like symptoms."
Flu seasons tend to last about 13 weeks and doctors estimate we're about 8 weeks in right now. The number of people getting the flu in South Carolina has started to decline, but doctors say it could spike back up again before it's all said and done.