A nationwide shortage of IV bags is a concern for some area hospitals as flu cases ramp up in the Janesville area.

SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital-Janesville started seeing shortages of IV bags after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, said Brenda Klahn, infection specialist at the hospital.

The hurricane caused damage to three Baxter IV bag manufacturing plants, according to a news release from the company. Plants were forced to run in limited production while working on backup diesel generators.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Jan. 4 that Baxter was back on the power grid and that the IV bag shortage should improve in “early 2018,” according to a news release.

Mercyhealth Hospital & Trauma Center in Janesville has seen a “slight shortage” in bags since the hurricane, said Mercyhealth spokesperson Trish Reed.

“It’s not at all impacting patient care, including our ability to care for patients who present at the emergency room with the flu,” she said.

IV bags are used to treat complications of influenza, but not the illness itself, Klahn said. The bags provide fluids for dehydrated flu patients and antibiotics for those with pneumonia, she said.

The number of positive influenza cases in the area continues to increase, Klahn said.

This year’s flu vaccine is not a “perfect fight” for the circulating virus, but it still is effective against some strains, Klahn said. It’s not too late to get the vaccine if desired, she added.

The number of positive influenza cases in Janesville is higher than average for this time of year, Klahn said. Flu cases started increasing in December, which is earlier than normal, she said.

“That was a concern for me, because at Christmas time we tend to share a lot of germs,” Klahn said. “When I saw it before Christmas, I was scared we were going to get hard in January, and that’s what we’re seeing.”

Flu cases typically increase in February, Klahn said.

St. Mary’s has reached out to other SSM Health System hospitals in Baraboo and Madison to find more IV bags, Klahn said.

“We’re all in the same boat,” she said.

In some cases, professionals at St. Mary’s have changed antibiotic mixtures to accommodate different bags while they wait for the IV bag supply to increase, Klahn said.

The hospital’s pharmacy department “works diligently” to stay ahead of the game and to avoid a complete outage, she said.

Those who think they are infected with the flu should contact their primary care doctors, Klahn said.

Beyond the vaccine, proper hand washing and staying home while sick are the best defenses against the illness, she said.

Reporter - Albany, Brodhead, Evansville, Footville, Orfordville, health

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