LUBBOCK, Texas — A triple threat of viruses is on the rise this holiday season. It’s now being called a ‘tripledemic’ and includes SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), influenza (flu) and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported at least 8.7 million flu cases, 78,000 hospitalizations and more than 4,000 deaths so far this season.

Over the last couple months, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced nationwide shortages of prescription drugs like Tamiflu, an antiviral medication to treat the flu, as well as amoxicillin, which is found in many antibiotics.

“Antibiotics, cough medication, steroids, things like that are on backorder,” said Jared Thornhill, owner of Thornhill’s Pharmacy. “It’s making it really difficult to fulfill all of the prescriptions that are coming in. Typically during the sick season, you can see some shortages and some items on backorder. Generally, it’s not this widespread.”

It’s not just prescription medications that are difficult to secure. 

“With the increase of sickness going around, then that causes people to purchase over-the-counter products that typically are available,” Thornhill said. “What we’re seeing right now is a lot of Tylenol, ibuprofen and cough medications are on backorder and they’re not available.”

From bigger chains to smaller locally-owned pharmacies, they’re all struggling to keep their shelves stocked.

“Many retailers are dealing with this same problem,” said Joey Marcades, communications coordinator with The United Family. “Especially during times of the year where everyone is going for that same product, everyone’s getting sick, and that exacerbates any type of supply problem that would happen.”

If the medicine you need is unavailable, there are still other options.

“Things like elderberry are a good way to help support your immune system,” said Brenda Garcia, registered dietitian for The United Family. “Zinc, and simple things like honey, raw honey is the best. That can help even soothe a sore throat. You can pair it with some ginger tea to help with a little bit of inflammation or even nausea.”

Now, pharmacies like Thornhill’s are having to work with doctors to find alternative medicines to treat patients. 

“The pharmacies are doing the absolute best that they can with what we’ve got,” Thornhill said. “Whatever relationships that we have with different prescribers in the area, we utilize that as much as we can. “It’s a tough time in pharmacies across the board.

The CDC said levels of respiratory illnesses are higher than we typically see this time of year. The CDC director and other experts are recommending people wear face masks to combat the respiratory illnesses this season.