As flu cases inch closer to 3,000, the threat of running out of kits to test for the illness is becoming more of a reality each week.
The shortage of testing kits could throw a wrench in the overall reporting of the illness both in Franklin County and statewide, hindering health officials in their tasks to properly document the flu season and prepare for next year.
As of Tuesday, the count of flu cases in Franklin County was 2,640 with just under 100 new cases reported after the Presidents Day holiday weekend. Just like last week, the influenza type B numbers are again creeping slightly higher than type A, but the cases per age group are holding steady.
Mercy Four Rivers Community Relations Manager Frank Hemmer said in the case of rapid-test flu kits, which produce immediate results at the time the test is taken, the shortages may be nationwide.
“Manufacturer shortages have occasionally resulted in test kits not being immediately available in a specific physician’s office,” Hemmer said. “In these cases, patients may be referred to another, nearby Mercy location for testing.”
Hemmer added Mercy monitors inventory levels on a daily basis.
“In cases where a shortage could potentially occur, we work to share supplies among our sites of service to ensure availability,” Hemmer said. “Through ROi, Mercy’s supply chain organization, we work continually to ensure that our locations across four states have the medical supplies necessary for patient care.”
After averaging 250 to 300 cases per week since the first of the year, cases for this week were lower but health officials warn it could be a false positive due to the Presidents Day holiday Monday, which is the usual reporting day.
According to the most recent numbers on Tuesday, there are now 638 reported cases of the flu in children ages 5 to 14 in Franklin County, which is 24 percent of the total cases reported.
The 25 to 49 age range makes up 21 percent of county cases with 550 reported.
People over 65 represent 16 percent of reported flu cases with 419 cases, and the 50 to 64 age group represent 15 percent of the cases with 395 reported thus far.
Ages 0 to 4 make up 5 percent with 39 combined cases.
The county health department gets its data from several sources, including the hospitals in Washington and Sullivan, doctors’ offices, Walgreens, CVS and other clinics, as well as school nurses.