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IV bag shortage hits U.S. hospitals — just in time for flu season


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.

The scarcity leads back to Hurricane Maria. When the storm hit Puerto Rico in September, it disrupted production at one of the island’s major suppliers of IV bags, CBS News reports.

A shortage of IV bags across the U.S. comes just as flu season hits hard.

(UniversalImagesGroup/UIG via Getty Images)

The small bags deliver intravenous fluids and medications to patients. The deficit has led hospital personnel to deliver meds in more time-consuming ways.

“This is a nationwide problem which is part of what makes it so hard is that we can't borrow from any other hospital,” Paul Biddinger, chief of the division of emergency preparedness at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CBS.

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Cindy Vazquez Cruz poses with her daughter Ruby Alamo in the shelter for Hurricane Maria victims where they currently reside, in front of the shelter's Christmas tree on Dec. 25, 2017 in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico. Cruz said their home was destroyed by Hurricane Maria and they have been forced to live in shelters ever since. Around 600 Hurricane Maria victims remain in shelters across Puerto Rico.

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There’s some good news. On Jan. 4, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb reported that power has been restored to Baxter, the medical supply facility in Puerto Rico, and things are improving.

“We expect that the shortage of IV saline fluids will improve in early 2018, with continuing improvements in the weeks ahead,” Scott said in a statement.

To avoid coming down with the flu, the CDC recommends getting a flu shot and taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.