High flu infection rates in Northeast Florida deplete test kits

Some area doctors' offices are completely out

By Vic Micolucci - I-TEAM reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - So many people are getting the flu in Northeast Florida that there’s a shortage of testing kits. It’s a sign of how severe the outbreak is nationwide this year.

Area doctors told News4Jax that infection rates of influenza A and B are the worst in a long time. And because of that, doctors’ offices nationwide are running out of flu test kits, which means some cases could go undetected.

The flu is easy to detect and the test only takes a couple of minutes. But because too many people are sick this year, especially in Northeast Florida, there’s a back order. Physicians are running out of supplies, and that could be a big problem.

News4Jax spoke with 70-year-old Dave Peters, who said the flu could be potentially fatal in his condition. 

“I’ve got a partial right lung due to a gunshot,” Peters said. “In my condition, it could put me in the hospital or even death.”

Peters said he has to be careful, so he gets his flu shot every year and gets a regular checkup.

“They watch over me and call me if I need to be called,” Peters said. 

Oceanway Medical Center’s Diana Medina said there’s so much demand that the kits are on back order and clinics have to conserve their supplies.

“We have to make sure before we are just running all these tests on every single patient that comes in with a runny nose,” Medina said. “We swab the patient’s nose on both sides and then we send it off to the lab and within 15 minutes we have a result.”

That’s important because it’s crucial to treat the flu right away and prevent it from spreading.
Medical professionals said they’re continuing to look out for the following symptoms:

  • high fever
  • body aches
  • cough
  • chest pressure 
  • fatigue

Medical professionals said they hope this season ends soon before things get any worse.

There’s no telling when the flu season will end, but doctors said it will likely be a few more months, which is why people need to be very careful. 

Doctors advise people to wash their hands often and if they’re sick, to stay away from other people and public places so the illness doesn’t spread. 

Oceanway Medical Center has about 15 test kits left as it waits for new supplies to come in. But News4Jax has heard from other clinics that said they don’t have any, so the doctors that do have kits are definitely being careful to only use them on people who likely have the flu. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health departments did not immediately respond to comment about the testing kit shortage. 

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