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Swine flu fear clears shelves of Tamiflu drug


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POSTED: Thursday, April 30, 2009

Buyers “;paranoid”; about trying to prevent swine flu cleaned out many pharmacies of Tamiflu, used to treat influenza, said pharmacist Stuart McElhaney of the Pillbox Pharmacy in Kaimuki.

 

;[Preview]  Hawaii state lab prepares to detect swine flu
 

The Hawaii state lab has been sending potential swine cases to the mainland but will have the tools to identify the specimen by next week.

[Watch]

 

Some Honolulu pharmacies were sending customers to the Pillbox Pharmacy, which had a fairly large supply of Tamiflu, but “;they wiped us out in one day,”; McElhaney said yesterday.

McElhaney said he ordered another supply from McKesson Corp. and hoped to have more today.

But Dr. Alan Tice, University of Hawaii associate professor of medicine, said the government has a stockpile.

At a news conference yesterday in Gov. Linda Lingle's office, state Department of Health officials repeated that there have been no confirmed cases of swine flu in Hawaii.

A “;handful”; of cases remain in which people exhibited flu symptoms that require testing to determine whether they contracted the H1N1 flu strain.

“;A couple of them have already (been) ruled out and the others we're just waiting,”; said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Cases that were ruled out include a patient who recently traveled to Mexico.

Park could not give a more exact figure on how many cases were pending.

“;I can't give you exact numbers because it changes daily,”; Park said. “;We get reports and we have to follow up on them to verify whether they fulfill criteria.

“;It would not be fair for me to give you a number. It's better to just say we have no confirmed reported cases at this time.”;

The state Health Department and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have systems in place to detect and control any swine flu outbreak here, but residents must do their part to stay healthy, Tice said.

“;The thing that's really important is that people understand and learn about it,”; Tice said.

Residents have two opportunities next week to learn more about the spreading disease:

On Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. at the Queen's Conference Center, three experts will discuss “;Swine Flu and You.”;

The speakers will be Tice, with Infection Limited Hawaii; Dr. Matthew Bankowski, vice president and technical director for clinical microbiology and infectious disease at Diagnosis Laboratory Services; and Sue Slavish, a state and national leader in infection control who retired in 2007 from the Queen's Medical Center. The discussion will be broadcast to the UH school of medicine and neighbor islands.

On Thursday at 5 p.m., also at the conference center, Tice will give a presentation to medical professionals and the public on “;Swine Flu, You and Your Patients.”;

Tice advises islanders to keep track of what's happening with the epidemic and learn what they can do to protect themselves and their loved ones.

“;Generally keep in good health,”; he said.

That should have included getting a flu shot this year, although it isn't very useful for the swine flu strain, he added.

Tice said people should avoid crowded environments because influenza is a respiratory disease spread through coughing or sneezing.

“;SARS taught us some remarkable lessons,”; Tice said, pointing out there was no effective medicine to treat it or vaccine to prevent it. “;We stopped SARS through education, understanding and thought.”;