Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel CEO Brian Adams said this flu season might be remembered as among the most daunting in recent years.
Case in point: the Pasco County Medical Mobile Unit recently depleted its supply of 800 flu vaccinations. One day last week, 78 doses of the vaccination were administered. In a two-week span, the unit injected 126 people.
The last shot was administered Tuesday.
"I think when the dust settles on the data, this will end up being one of the most difficult traditional seasons in a long time," Adams said. "And we've certainly seen that impact across the hospital systems in the Tampa Bay area."
Public Defender Bob Dillinger, whose office oversees the unit, recently alerted state Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, by email. Fasano, who is public affairs director for Florida Hospital, called Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel and Adams for help.
The mobile unit picked up a new batch of 250 flu vaccines Tuesday.
"We're seeing some ill people," Dillinger said. "We can tell there's a great need in the homeless and uninsured community for medical services."
After Fasano spoke with Adams, Adams called his hospital's supplier in Orlando and the additional vaccinations were shipped to Wesley Chapel.
Dillinger said about 4,000 children are homeless in Pasco, and Fasano said a study once counted more than 70,000 people in the county with little or no health insurance. He said he is sure that number has increased.
"There are so many families in this county that do not have access to primary care because they don't have access to health care insurance and they don't qualify for Medicaid," Fasano said. "So it is extremely helpful to the families to be able to get those flu shots to, one, avoid any further problems in regards to their health. And it helps a lot with keeping people out of an emergency room that only costs the taxpayers a lot more money in the long run."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends seasonal flu vaccine for people ages 6 months and older. It is suggested because flu viruses change annually. Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, which can lead to death. Most people recover in a matter of days, and others take close to two weeks, according to the Florida Department of Health.
Contracting the flu can lead to complications such as pneumonia.
The flu season generally peaks in January and February in Florida and can last until May.
Fasano has played an integral part in assuring the 37-foot mobile unit, which scours the county at least three times a week rendering medical services, is operating.
He was chairing the appropriations committee in the state Senate that oversaw funding for the public defender's office. Fasano secured $165,000 that will go annually to the mobile unit to keep it staffed full time with an emergency medical technician and an advanced registered nurse practitioner.
"The mobile medical unit is really doing a wonderful job serving Pasco County," Adams said. When this kind of county service can provide preventive health care, "that's a big advantage to those patients because we don't want to just help them when they're ill. We want to prevent them from getting ill and that's the value of a flu shot. And we were happy to participate in that," Adams said.