Arizona sees unusual spike in flu cases this spring

May 20, 2022, 4:35 AM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — Arizona is seeing a spike in flu cases this spring, which could leave some major pharmacies in the state running low on medication.

Arizona reported 1,026 cases of the flu for the week of May 8, when the five-year average for that week is 225 cases, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Flu and RSV reports.

“We are seeing a late season peak of influenza here in Arizona,” Eugene Livar, an epidemiologist with the Arizona Department of Health Services, said. “Previous influenza seasons have had peaks around January to February, even as late as March normally.

“The late season peaks are in line with what other states are seeing and the increases are current across the country.”

Livar added it’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause for the late-season spike but said there could be multiple factors, like fewer people receiving the flu shot.

He calls this an abnormal trend, but put it into perspective with previous years.

“Right now, we’re over 12,000 cases being reported for the current flu season, but as recently as 2019 to 2020, that particular season we had over 36,000 cases,” Livar said.

A late-season demand for certain medications like Tamiflu, which is an antiviral drug that can treat or prevent the flu, could leave some major pharmacies in the state scrambling.

“While we are seeing increases in late-season demand for Tamiflu in Arizona, we’re not experiencing a widespread shortage,” CVS Pharmacy said in a statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM.

“We’re continuing to supply pharmacies with Tamiflu using our existing supply chain network, although there may be instances when individual pharmacies could be temporarily out-of-stock.”

Dr. Shad Marvasti, director of public health, prevention and health promotion at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, has a reason for why pharmacies may see shortages.

“If we have unseasonably high demand for a medication at a time when we usually don’t see that demand, then the supplies will lag behind because we haven’t anticipated that,” Marvasti said.

Livar adds that people can still receive a flu vaccine for the 2021-22 season until late June.

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Arizona sees unusual spike in flu cases this spring