SC ready for flu, thanks to early drug purchase

If the number of swine flu cases grows epidemically in South Carolina, state officials say they’re as ready as they can be.   They’re prepared with anti-viral medication, and a lot of it–$6.7 million worth.   That’s how much state lawmakers voted to spend on the medicine a few years ago.  
 Department of Health and Environmental Control spokesman Jim Beasley says the state is warehousing 435,000 courses of the medication, thanks to a federal program that created a reduced price.
Beasley says the Strategic National stockpile Program is an effort of the Department of Health and Human Services that D.H.E.C. took advantage of a few years ago.   “We have purchased a supply of Tamiflu and Relenza, 95 percent Tamiflu.  We have approximately 435,000 courses.  That means we can treat 435,000 people with what we have on hand right now.”
Antivirals work by stopping viruses from reproducing in the body.
Beasley says on top of that, the federal stockpile program has an additional 600,000 plus rounds of medicine waiting to send to South Carolina, and is sending one fourth of that immediately. That means the state will have access to more than one-million courses of flu medication if it’s needed, in addition to all those doses ready for private sale by hospitals and pharmacies.   “The state of South Carolina was wise to move forward with purchasing when it had the opportunity.  By purchasing through that program it gave us the chance to get it much cheaper than if we went to buy it today.  The federal government helped to pay for it.  We had to pay for 75 percent of it.” 
Mexican officials lowered their flu alert level in Mexico City Monday, but Beasley says that can be very deceiving.  Officials with the World Health Organization say the threat for the rest of the world is still very real and they’re considering raising the pandemic alert level, asserting that a pandemic is imminent.