Convergence of Flu Season, IV Shortage ‘Matter of Life and Death’

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The flu season has made the recent IV bag shortage a matter of life and death, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal. Sen. Blumenthal spoke at Hartford Hospital during a press conference to bring attention to the converging events.

“The saline solution shortage is a chronic one,” Sen. Blumenthal said, “but action is necessary now in light of the severity of these recent shortages because patients are put at risk.”

Blumenthal was joined by Hartford Hospital’s Dr. Jack Ross, chief of infectious disease, and Eric Arlia, pharmacy director.

The recent shortage began in September after a group of IV bag manufacturing plants in Puerto Rico lost power because of Hurricane Maria. The shortage worsened after the shutdown of a California manufacturing plant for maintenance.

In the midst of this shortage, clinical pharmacies across Hartford Healthcare are working together to ensure patient care isn’t interrupted.

“The biggest thing for us at Hartford HealthCare is we’ve been able to keep up,” Arlia said in a recent interview. “We’ve had to look at some different ways to administer medications, working collaboratively with our nursing education department and our nursing leadership to instruct our nurses how to use alternative versions of medications that they might not have administered in the past.”

This year’s flu season, which already has sent the highest percentage of people nationally to their health care providers since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, is expected to peak this month or next. The virus has been linked to 32 deaths in Connecticut.

Young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and those with certain medical conditions have a high risk of flu-related complications, Dr. Ross said.

To lower your cold or flu risk:

  • Get a flu shot. Even though this year’s vaccine might not be particularly effective against the more common Influenza A (H32N) strain, it can be useful against other strains.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Where soap and water is not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains alcohol.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid people who are sick. Don’t let their illness become yours.

Still need a flu shot? Visit the nearest Hartford HealthCare/GoHealth Urgent Care Center. Call first to see if the vaccine is available. If it’s not, you can reserve a vaccination at another GoHealth location.

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