‘They are unavailable:’ Surge in respiratory illnesses causing shortage of flu medication

ORLANDO, Fla. — Since Thanksgiving, both flu and COVID-19 cases have continued to rise, according to data from the Florida Department of Health.


The recent surge in respiratory illnesses has led to a shortage of the medicines used to treat flu-like symptoms.

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Flu surveillance reports show an uptick in COVID and flu cases across the state that is only expected to get worse.

“With us just coming out of the holidays, we expect that to continue as people gathered and celebrated together,” said Dr. Melissa Morgan, Senior Director of Infection Prevention at Orlando Health.

This year’s flu season has brought more confirmed cases than in 2020 and 2021, and at times, has surpassed 2019 levels.

So far, Orlando Health and AdventHealth say their hospitals are managing to avoid issues with patient capacity.

However, with COVID-19, the flu, and RSV all circulating throughout Central Florida in what’s being called a “tripledemic,” the biggest challenge facing providers has been one of supply and demand.

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“They do not have it. They are unavailable,” Orlando ProCare Pharmacist Dr. Joe Muroka said. “So even the supplier is limited. Absolutely.”

Muroka says he has to be strategic when it comes to getting medication for his patients. Tylenol, Motrin and Theraflu are all quickly coming off the shelves while stores like Walgreens and CVS have limited what customers can buy.

“Even for us as a pharmacy, we are limited to how much we can acquire,” Muroka said.

On the bright side, Muroka says he thinks the shortage is temporary. He’s asking people to resist the urge to stockpile medications if they find them on shelves.

“When you speak to the manufacturers, they still have the active ingredient,” Muroka said. “There’s no shortage; it’s just a matter of getting it from the manufacturers to the stores.”

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Anyone who is struggling to find the medication they need is advised to consult a physician who may be able to provide a sample and talk through potential alternatives.

They also say using a cold compress or bathing in lukewarm water can help reduce fevers.

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