NEW ORLEANS -- The flu is now statistically an epidemic in the United States with the number of reported deaths above the CDC's epidemic threshold.
Reports that a more severe strain of the disease is going around have people flocking to local pharmacies to get vaccinated. Many ran out in recent days.
Pharmacists at Majoria Drugs on Metairie Road are fielding many phone calls about the flu.
“I got a call from one man who got his shot at Walmart and wanted to know if we were gonna get a different one because he wanted to get all the coverage he could,” said Majoria pharmacist Al Spitale.
It's all the same shot nationwide, and news that a more severe strain of the flu is striking earlier this year has many flocking to area pharmacies to get it.
“Friday and Saturday were really, really busy,” said registered nurse Stephanie Bothner. The pharmacy called her in to run a table at the front of the store offering vaccinations because of the high demand for them in recent days.
“Thursday we gave 40 shots. Friday we gave 70. Saturday we gave about 60. Yesterday we gave 40,” Spitale said.
A spokesman for Walgreens said outside of the Federal government, they're the nation's largest administrator of flu shots in the US. This past weekend, the spokesman admitted some of their stores ran out, and in fact, Eyewitness News called some and they were still out on Tuesday.
“Do you have any?” -- it's the most common question Spitale said he's getting asked about the flu shot.
“It's been difficult. Some people have had to call around. And we are one of the few who still have it available,” Bothner said.
Area pharmacists said some of the nation's suppliers of the vaccine are starting to run out of it because of the recent spike in demand.
“We checked with one this morning and they had about ten vials on hand. And pretty much what's gone from them, that's gonna be the end of the road for us,” Spitale said.
A Walgreens spokesman said they do expect to be able to replenish their supplies in a couple of days.
Majoria expects their supply to last another week.
As for Tamiflu, the anti-viral prescribed to shorten the life and severity of a flu infection, Spitale said they're also filling more prescriptions of it this season.
Walgreens said they administered 200,000 shots in the first week of 2013 and that their highest demand for flu shots occurred on Jan. 10. In all, they administered 5.7 million from August 2012 through January 8, 2013.
Many doctor's offices and urgent care clinics still also had good supplies of the vaccine if New Orleanians want to get the flu shot.