The flu has hit early and hard - 46 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control - and this year hospitals face an additional hurdle to treat it: A shortage of IV bags.
Connecticut's two USA senators are pressing their colleagues to do more to help the residents of Puerto Rico, who are still recovering from a hurricane that hit the island more than 100 days ago.
Local hospitals feel impact of IV bag.
Health care workers use those bags to deliver medicine and treat dehydrated patients.
Manual hydration takes about four times longer to administer, and it's only given to patients under a doctor's orders. Michele Evink, pharmacy manager at Clarke County Hospital in Iowa, added that Clarke's staff has engaged in workarounds to compensate for lacking supplies. We are working closely with our clinicians and clinical pharmacists to implement ongoing strategies to conserve affected products such as normal saline, including recommendations for using alternative delivery methods, using alternative suppliers, and obtaining products from FDA-approved alternative manufacturers.
The shortage is widespread. "It worries me that they don't have everything they could possible need at their disposal".
Some hospital officials said they have only a day or two of supplies and worry whether they would be able to handle an influx of patients as the influenza virus ramps up. "You sort of think this is brutal, this guy should probably be helping other patients".
The Food and Drug Administration said Thursday that production at Puerto Rico plants remains fragile. So far, there have been more than 400 confirmed flu cases in the state. It turns out, the manufacturing plant that makes the majority of these small IV bags is in Puerto Rico.
"Not until this happened did we realize how many things are actually being produced there and how it is significantly affecting the whole country's medical system", Owens-Pike said. And in Puerto Rico, it's a more important tradition than Santa Claus.
41 Action News reached out to a handful of area hospitals: University of Kansas Hospital, Truman Medical Centers, Overland Park Regional, Children's Mercy, and Shawnee Mission Health.
Biddinger is chief of emergency preparedness at Mass General.
"If we had a very severe flu season start to develop in the next weeks and months, that could push us over the edge", he said.