Blood and Tamiflu shortages caused by 'widespread' flu

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By Mike Gertzman By Mike Gertzman

PHOENIX -- Flu is still considered widespread in Arizona, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and some experts say it has yet to peak here.

The ongoing harsh season is having ripple effects through the medical community.

"We've got very empty shelves," Sue Thew of United Blood Services told 3TV Tuesday. "And the flu is behind it."

"We've had severe shortages at blood drives because people are canceling or not showing up because they're sick."

UBS was unable to fill 78 orders of blood to various hospitals around the state Tuesday. The shortage is considered "urgent" by UBS, but has not interfered with any medical emergencies.

The blood bank relies on about 700 donations per day in Arizona to supply 58 hospitals statewide.  

Also in short supply is Tamiflu, the prescription used to treat flu victims.

The Federal Drug Administration reports shortages in the liquid form, which is primarily used with children.

"I'm telling families to call pharmacies before going in because we've had a lot of people tell us they're having trouble finding it," said Dr. Rachel Blumenthal of Goodnight Pediatrics.

Tamiflu's manufacturer is telling pharmacists who run out of the liquid form to crush the pills into powder, and combine it in a suspension liquid to create new doses for children.

"It's the distribution line to pharmacies during peak flu season," Blumenthal said. "The maker has the supply, but it's tough to get that supply out to where it needs to be when we have such high demand."