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Rough Flu Season Causing Supply Shortages At Some Doctors' Offices, Hospitals

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The flu has hit so hard and heavy this year, some doctors are running out of supplies.

"I have heard from private practices that they are running short on the rapid flu tests," says Allegheny General Hospital Emergency Medicine physician Dr. Tom Campbell. "I think they could make some decision on who it was most important to get the test on, who was most at risk, and use the same number they might have left."

Restocking these 10-minute tests isn't so easy.

"We went to purchase more because of the use we've had this year, and they're not available," says Dr. James DeAngelo, of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Associates.

Other places are in good shape.

"I think a lot of it is proactive. Our supply chain folks have done a really good job of managing it, monitoring it, and try to keep our orders coming in on time," says Dave Kish, RN of the St. Clair Hospital Emergency Department.

The test involves swabbing the back of the nose or throat to check for influenza DNA.

"It takes 10 minutes," says Dr. Campbell.

But you don't need a test to tell if you have the flu.

"If someone looks like they have a flu, with a fever, myalgias, or body aches, and we know it's running rampant in the population, you probably don't need to do a flu test, even a rapid flu test," says Dr. Campbell.

The latest numbers from the Allegheny County Health Department are more than 4,000 cases so far this flu season. That's twice as many as the same time last year. There have also been some deaths.

"One day she's fine, then she's gone," laments the mother of a girl who died of the flu. "How can that even happen?"

Watch for symptoms that signal you're heading for trouble.

"If it's beyond your usual fever, body aches, if you have extreme shortness of breath, chest pain, can't get up and walk. I've had patients from dehydration, pass out at home, and have to come in, and those are all reasons to come in to be seen," says Dr. Campbell.

So far there have been 340 hospitalizations this flu season in Allegheny County, and there have been five deaths. That's the same number of deaths as the same time last year.

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