Give Florida families more ways to get tested and treated for flu and strep

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Florida House Bill 389 provides certain requirements for written protocol between the pharmacist and supervising physician, authorizing pharmacists to test for and treat influenza and streptococcus.

Flu season is picking up according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and it is on an upswing earlier than normal this year.

This is alarming, considering that each year since 2010, the CDC has estimated the flu has resulted in between 9.3 million and 49 million illnesses in the United States.

And, it is not just the flu. News reports have shown there is a new strain of strep that is causing cases of Scarlet fever, and the worst part is there is not a vaccination for strep. Did you know strep A bacteria kills a half-million people a year? Medical Express reported that “strep A ranks among the most destructive pathogens on Earth, rivalling malaria parasites, tuberculosis bacteria and HIV.”

There was another way to be tested for the flu and strep and be given the medicine right then and there. Currently, 17 states allow for pharmacists to test and treat for the flu and strep and provide treatment under a supervising physician. And, now Florida has its chance too.

I recently filed House Bill 389 in the Florida House of Representatives for consideration in the 2020 legislative session that would allow local pharmacists to provide the testing for and treatment of influenza and streptococcus. This legislation, which provides certain requirements for written protocol between the pharmacist and supervising physician, authorizing pharmacists to test for and treat influenza and streptococcus, is identical to state Sen. Travis Hutson’s Senate Bill 714 in the Florida Senate.

What does this mean to you, the patient? It means that you have one more access point to get treated and tested. This not only speeds up the process, but also gives those without insurance a way to be seen, freeing up our emergency rooms and urgent care facilities and helping to clear them of these contagious diseases and reduce their spread. It can also be a cheaper option. While you may spend approximately $200 on a visit to an urgent care center, you may only spend about $30 at the local pharmacy to be seen for the same symptoms.

Florida has a great opportunity to help our families during a very stressful time, and do so in a responsible manner. This proposed legislation is key because it creates a collaboration among local pharmacists and physicians here in Florida. Regardless of whether you test positive for the flu or strep, the pharmacist could recommend you visit a physician or follow up with them for further testing.

With winter here, there is no better time than now to give Floridians a choice on where they can get tested and treated for the flu and influenza in a quick and cost conducive way.

State Representative TYLER I. SIROIS, MERRITT ISLAND. Originally featured in the Palm Beach Post.