4 more flu deaths reported; hospitals face IV bag shortages

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Four new flu deaths, including two in the Triangle, raise the state's total to 26 this flu season.

The flu epidemic is growing in North Carolina, with 26 deaths now linked to the virus after four more deaths were reported last week.

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Two of those deaths are in the Triangle.

WakeMed Hospital is reporting a sharp increase in flu cases. They have shot up 63 percent in the past 10 days. There have been 360 since the beginning of October and 208 of those cases have been reported in the past week-and-a-half.

ABC11 spoke with Dr. Sue Lynn Ledford, who is in charge of the health and well-being of more than a million residents in Wake County.

Ledford, the county's Public Health Director, stressed that the flu is a serious, contagious disease and is reiterating the importance of getting a vaccine.

"It has been concerning across the country," Ledford said of the flu season.

She said this year's vaccine protects patients against three or four strains.

Ledford explained that different strains circulate during different times of the year. You could have Type-A flu early in the season and then get Type-B later.

"If you've already lost some of your health immunity due to having contracted flu one time, you certainly do not need to contract a second strain and that's the benefit of taking the vaccine," she said.

IV BAG SHORTAGE ADDS TO CHALLENGES

Hospitals are scrambling to fight another problem while also treating the flu. There is an IV bag shortage.

Supplies of saline and nutrient solutions were already tight before hurricanes pounded Puerto Rico and cut power to manufacturing plants that make much of the U.S. supply of fluid-filled bags used to deliver sterile solutions to patients

The UNC Hospital System, which includes UNC Medical Center in Chapel Hill and UNC REX in Raleigh, isn't receiving its normal amount of supplies.

"Our top goal is to treat all patients in a safe and appropriate manner, and our teams are doing their best to minimize any impact on our patients," said UNC Health Care/UNC REX Healthcare spokesperson Alan Wolf. "Teams of people working daily behind the scenes to find new sources for some supplies, implement conservation measures and use alternative medical products when possible."

WakeMed said it has been fortunate enough to maintain a system-wide supply during this nasty flu season.

"As a health system, WakeMed has resources available across our facilities to manage the shortage without any disruption to patient care. In some cases, safe alternative forms of IV fluids and treatments are used when clinically appropriate to minimize the impact. Our pharmacy and clinical care teams meet daily to track fluid inventory, coordinate distribution and ensure the needs of our patients are being met without compromising care," said spokesperson Kristen Kelly.

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healthfluflu seasonchild deathnorth carolina newsNCRaleighDurhamChapel Hill
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