Roanoke, Virginia – Several pharmacies across the country reported that they were having a hard time getting the desired amounts of antibiotics a few months ago. Pharmacy managers and owners then blamed the shortage of antibiotics, something that was later confirmed by two of the largest antibiotic manufacturers. The initial shortage didn’t seem to be concerning for health officials because America was months away from the flu season.
Since then, the antibiotics supply has normalized, and the health system seemed to be ready for the upcoming flu season, which was expected to be additionally fueled by the Covid-19 cases that usually are on the rise during the winter. However, the flu season started much earlier than usual, and the increasing number of flu cases in almost every area nationwide somewhat caught the medical system unprepared. The number of new flu cases has literally exploded, especially after the Thanksgiving weekend. Hospitals across the country, especially in pediatrics, are overwhelmed with patients infected with the flu, COVID-19, and RSV. The combination of these three diseases is now known as “Tripledemic”.
Hospitals across Virginia are in a similar situation. The huge increase in patients recently is pushing hospitals to their operational limits, and in some cases, patients have to wait for hours to see a doctor. According to multiple reports in recent weeks, the pediatric departments are the most impacted because children’s immunity has weakened since the pandemic began as a result of school closures, lockdowns, and a limited ability to socialize during the pandemic.
One of the major struggles for hospitals is the labor shortage, something that was also very noticeable during the pandemic. But now, that issue is less important because some of the largest hospitals in Virginia are running low on the most important medications, antibiotics, caused by the early start of the flu season, thousands of new flu cases every day, and an antibiotic supply that apparently still hasn’t normalized.
According to Carilion Children’s Interim Chair, Dr. Christopher Pierce, Carilion hospitals are heavily impacted by a lack of supply of the most common antibiotic, amoxicillin. In addition, similar medicines given to patients as amoxicillin alternatives are also in short supply because doctors are forced to prescribe them more often than ever. Another serious problem for Carilion is the number of hospitalizations.
“We’re really seeing the impact. It’s filling up the hospital beds over at Roanoke Memorial, in the adult world has been running at capacity and the pediatric world, we are running at over capacity,” said Dr. Christopher Pierce.
The peak of the flu season is yet to take place in the upcoming period, and the current situation with hospital care and antibiotic availability might get worse. Health experts advise everyone to get the flu shot, which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky, appears to be very effective against the influenza strain that’s circulating. Wearing a face mask, avoiding crowded areas, especially indoors, washing hands frequently, and staying home if you feel sick are some of the other precautionary measures that everyone should practice to prevent getting infected.