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NEW YORK The swine flu story first broke Friday, April 24, and quickly grew in prominence on the evening news with each chilling update from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. On April 24, it was 20 cases in three states. By Friday, May 1, there were 141 cases across 19 states and counting.
The concerns are growing and real. The Food Marketing Institute announced the cancellation of an industry gathering in Dallas next week and a great number of schools have been closed across the country — even where there were no confirmed cases of swine flu — all out of those concerns.
The federal government quickly declared a state of emergency, and as part of that, the CDC began distributing some 11 million doses of Tamiflu to all 50 states from its Strategic National Stockpile. For all the good that does, because the common American doesn’t have access to the national stockpile of anything. At least not at this preliminary stage. But they do have access to their neighborhood drug store.
To date, the greatest cluster of swine flu exists in New York City, and each of the prominent drug store retailers in that city — CVS, Duane Reade, Rite Aid and Walgreens — reported an increase in demand for antivirals like Tamiflu and Relenza, hand sanitizers and facemasks. That demand included a nine-fold increase for antivirals nationwide on Monday, April 27 as compared to the 26 days prior, according to an initial analysis by SDI. Which is telling, because what it means is that in a time of crisis when consumers are looking for immediate solutions, they turn to their neighborhood pharmacists for both products and information — one supermarket pharmacist in upstate New York reported she was fielding between 10 and 15 questions per day around swine flu. That’s one shift, and that was early in the week.
And nurse practitioners are also more and more becoming a healthcare resource for consumers — the Convenient Care Association representing more than 1,200 member clinics in 30 states announced that its members are prepared to help consumers with any swine flu concerns — be it questions or a preliminary diagnosis.
All of this boils down to one simple truth — pharmacy, with its breadth and depth of healthcare products and services — is the de facto front line of healthcare delivery. Concerned consumers only need walk into their local pharmacy to get all that they require — a prescription from their doctor or nurse practitioner filled, hand sanitizers and facemasks for disease prevention or sound advice from a knowledgeable and practiced healthcare professional.