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Flu Taking Its Toll, Vaccine in Short Supply

The Pharmacy Center and CVS on Halstead Avenue are both out of vaccines, but state officials said there is ample supply. The county health department has posted info

It's the coughing. The runny nose. The fever. The "I can't get out of bed" feeling.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that high flu activity is still continuing around the country, with influenza vaccines in short supply.

In Harrison, both the Pharmacy Center and CVS on Halstead Avenue are out of the vaccine. However, the Westchester County Department of Health is currently surveying pharmacies to determine vaccine availability and has said state officials say there is sufficient supply available from manufacturers.

Visit their website for additional sources to call for flu shots.

Dr. Joseph Ponticiello, the Emergency Department director at Sound Shore Medical Center in New Rochelle said, "Right now, we are looking at a flu epidemic."

"We have been inundated with patients with flu and flu-like symptoms," he added, via a telephone interview with Patch.

Ponticiello said 154 people came to the hospital's emergency department Monday. That is a 30 percent increase over the number of people who normally come to the emergency room on a daily basis, he said, adding that it has been that way for the last couple of weeks.

Ponticiello said people are coming to the hospital with the initial flu symptoms of general fatigue and fever.

"We are picking up a fair amount of pneumonia also," he said.

Some patients, who have other medical issues, have been requiring intravenous fluids and chest x-rays.

Without hesitation, Ponticiello said, if people haven't already gotten flu shots, they should go ahead and get them.

"It's worth it," he said, "because you don't know what will happen in the next few months."

A report on ABC News said that flu activity is waning but the cold-weather virus could make a comeback.

Ponticiello said his department has tested over 120 people for the flu, with about 30 of those testing positive.

"I'm not sure if we've peaked yet," he said. "This moves across the country from west to east, so in the next week or two we will start to see a decline" in the number of patients.

Pat Patel, the pharmacist at the New Rochelle Prescription Center on Main Street, said he had run out of flu vaccine but was scheduled to receive another 100 doses Tuesday.

"People can call and reserve a shot, or they can just walk in," he said.

Patel said he usually just orders enough vaccine for 30 shots, but this year has been different. He's already given 130 flu shots so far this season.

Plus, more customers are coming to his store looking for over-the-counter remedies for sore throat, runny nose and cough.

"People are buying lots of Lysol and Purell, too," Patel said.

Ponticiello said there are things one can do to help stave off getting the flu.

"The major thing is, if you are sick, stay home," he said. Other things that can be done include wiping down the phones, remote controls and game consoles—anything people handle.

"A lot of hand washing is a good idea," Ponticiello said.

He said it was a good idea to buy pocketbook-sized hand sanitizer and to use it frequently.

Anyone who wants to get a flu shot can call your primary-care physician, local pharmacy or check the HealthMap Vaccine Finder for locations based on ZIP Code. However, it would be best to call ahead to confirm if the vaccine is in stock.

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