Saline, other supplies, scarce during 'widespread' flu season - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Saline, other supplies, scarce during 'widespread' flu season

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A saline shortage, caused in part by Hurricane Maria, has prompted lawmakers and hospital officials to raise a red flag as flu season rages on.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal and medical professionals from Hartford Hospital said they urged steps to address what they're calling a "critical shortage" of IV saline.

Hospital officials said they're close to a record number of hospitalizations.

"Parents and family members keep telling me, 'wash your hands, make sure you’re not touching door knobs, wash your hands,'" said Hannah Cooper of New Britain.

Supplies were tight before the hurricane.

"The flu season makes this problem a matter of life and death," Blumenthal said. "It increases the urgency and the immediacy of these shortages."

The shortage was worsened when Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, doctors said.

Power was cut to manufacturing plants that make much of the U.S. supply of the fluid-filled saline bags.

Hospital officials said doctors have been resorting to using Gatorade due to the scarcity.

Medical professionals and Blumenthal will provided an update on flu cases and trends during a news conference at Hartford Hospital.

Hospital officials said they've seen a short supply of surgical masks, between 15 and 20 types of medication, along with the IV bags.

"There are warehouses all over the United States right now that usually are full of IV fluids and other supplies things that really critically needed in a severe flu season, they’re empty," said Dr. Jack Ross, director of infectious diseases at Hartford Hospital. "When we go to IV fluids each week we do not get the amount of cases we request."

Aside from the lack of manufacturing in Puerto Rico, doctors said the other reason for the shortages is simply demand.

"We are essentially interconnected community today," Ross said. "What impacts one may impact another because we’re going to try and be going to the same distributors."

Blumenthal called for the Food and Drug Administration to determine a cause and solution.

"These shortages are completely irresponsible and reprehensible," he said. "They are preventable and that’s what should be done."

Blumenthal said he wrote a letter to the FDA.

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