cdc flu virus
Seasonal flu: What you need to know
01:46 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

With an early and severe flu season straining resources, the Biden administration says it will release the prescription antiviral Tamiflu from the Strategic National Stockpile to states and territories that request it.

The US Department of Health and Human services said Wednesday this should help ease access to the medication – one of several types of medicines patients have sometimes struggled to find amid a surge of respiratory viruses, including flu, RSV, Covid-19 and others.

Aside from antivirals, certain antibiotics and common pain relievers/fever reducers, especially liquid formulations used for children, have also been in high demand. Some stores are implementing purchasing limits on some over-the-counter medications.

Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response regional teams will work with jurisdictions to evaluate any requests for Tamiflu. States that have run out of Tamiflu in their stockpiles can also request more from the national stockpile.

“The actions taken today to increase access to Tamiflu show our preparedness system at work,” Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Dawn O’Connell said in a news release. “The country is more prepared for this surge because the SNS holds strategic stores of Tamiflu. As a result, jurisdictions will be able to get the support they need to keep Americans healthy as flu cases rise this winter.”

The US Food and Drug Administration does not currently list Tamiflu as being in shortage. But pharmacists and consumers have reported difficulty finding generic Tamiflu, or oseltamivir, in some areas. Some generic versions of brand-name Tamiflu are listed as being in shortage in the database maintained by the American Society of Health-Systems Pharmacists, known as ASHP. The ASHP database takes reports of shortages from the public and they’re then verified by pharmacists.

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The Strategic National Stockpile, or SNS, is a large store of certain supplies, medicines and devices that can be utilized in the event of a medical emergency. Tamiflu has been stored in the SNS and in state stockpiles in case of an influenza pandemic.

While there are signs that flu is slowing in some parts of the country, flu activity still remains high. All but seven states are experiencing “high” or “very high” respiratory virus activity, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu hospitalizations improved last week, after the worst week of the season that hit post-Thanksgiving.

So far this season, the CDC estimates that there have been at least 15 million illnesses, 150,000 hospitalizations, and 9,300 deaths from flu.