DPH Announces Third Human Case of West Nile Virus for 2021

DOVER (Nov. 2, 2021) – The Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today that an 87-year-old Kent County woman has become infected with West Nile Virus (WNV), making it the state’s third case of human WNV in 2021. The woman indicated no travel history that could have led to transmission, meaning she contracted WNV in Delaware. To protect the patient’s privacy, DPH will not provide additional information on this case.

WNV is a mosquito-borne illness that can cause serious health problems. WNV is transmitted by mosquitoes, generally in summer and fall, with a peak period for disease transmissions from mid-August to mid-October. Nearly 80 percent of people infected with WNV will not become ill. While only a little less than 20 percent of those infected with the virus will develop West Nile fever with mild symptoms (fever, headache, body aches, a skin rash on the chest or back and swollen lymph glands), one in 150 people infected will develop severe infection (West Nile encephalitis or meningitis).

Symptoms of severe WNV infection include headache, high fever, stiff neck, and/or tremors and muscle weakness. The elderly and those with weakened immune systems are most at risk. Anyone who experiences any of these severe symptoms should seek medical help immediately. Symptoms may progress to stupor, disorientation, coma, convulsions, paralysis and possibly death.

The mosquitoes that cause WNV bite primarily from dusk (evening) to dawn (morning). However, other mosquitoes that cause diseases such as chikungunya, dengue fever, and Zika can bite during the day. It is important to protect yourself by wearing insect repellent whenever you go outdoors. It’s also recommended to wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants to protect your limbs from insect bites.

In addition to the three human WNV cases, there has been one confirmed case of West Nile Virus (WNV) in a Kent County horse.  West Nile Virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) are diseases transmitted to horses via the bites of mosquitoes. Humans can also be infected with WNV and EEE, but transmission requires a mosquito bite, and the virus cannot be directly transmitted between horses, or between horses and people. Signs of infection in horses include fever (although not always with WNV), anorexia, head pressing, depression or personality change, wobbling or staggering, weakness, blindness, convulsions, muscle spasms in the head and neck, or hind-limb weakness. If owners notice any of these signs in their horses, they should contact their veterinarian immediately.

Horse owners can take several additional steps in the barn and around the farm to help protect horses from mosquito bites. Horses should be kept inside during dawn and dusk, which are peak hours for mosquito activity. Topical insect repellents labeled for use on horses may be applied. The wind generated by fans installed in horse stalls can also help deter mosquitoes. Old tires and containers should be disposed of, and standing water eliminated. Water troughs or buckets should be emptied, cleaned, and refilled every 2-3 days if possible to remove any mosquito eggs or larvae.

Mosquito Bite Prevention: To avoid mosquito bites and reduce the risk of infection, individuals should:

  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for reapplication times.
  • If using sunscreen, apply it first and insect repellent second.
  • Adults: Spray insect repellent onto your hands and then apply it to the child’s face. Do not apply insect repellent onto a child’s hands, eyes, mouth, or on cut or irritated skin.
  • Do not use insect repellent on babies younger than 2 months of age.
  • When outside, wear shoes, light-colored long-sleeved shirts and pants. Dress your child in clothing that covers arms and legs. Mosquito netting can protect one’s face and neck, and infants in carriages, strollers and playpens.
  • Use permethrin (an insecticide) to treat clothing and gear (such as boots, pants, socks, and tents), but do not apply to skin.
  • Prevent mosquitoes from entering the house by using screens and keeping windows and doorways tightly sealed.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) Mosquito Control section announced WNV had been found in sentinel chickens for the first time this year in July. Delawareans are reminded that the possibility of contracting mosquito-transmitted diseases, including WNV and EEE, will continue until colder weather sets in, which this year could be as late as mid-November. Until that time, in response to findings of WNV or EEE in humans or horses by the Division of Public Health and Delaware Department of Agriculture, respectively, DNREC’s Mosquito Control section typically increases its mosquito population surveillance efforts in the vicinity of the virus findings, and then, depending on types and numbers of mosquitoes encountered, takes appropriate mosquito control measures as warranted. To report suspected cases of human WNV, call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 1-888-295-5156.

For more information about mosquitoes and mosquito-borne illnesses, use the following resources:

For mosquito biology/ecology and control, contact the DNREC Mosquito Control section office in Dover at 302-739-9917.

For requests for mosquito relief in upstate areas from Dover north, contact Mosquito Control’s Glasgow field office at 302-836-2555.

For requests for mosquito relief in downstate areas south of Dover, contact Mosquito Control’s Milford field office at 302-422-1512.

For animal health questions, contact the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section at 302-698-4561.

To report suspected cases of human WNV, call the Division of Public Health Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology toll-free at 1-888-295-5156.

For more information on West Nile virus or Eastern equine encephalitis, visit www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/westnile/index.htm.

For more information on what you can do to prevent West Nile Virus, visit the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s website, www.cdc.gov/westnile/prevention/index.html.

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Anyone who is deaf, hard of hearing, Deaf-Blind or speech disabled can contact DPH by dialing 711 first using specialized devices (i.e. TTY, TeleBraille, voice devices).  The 711 service is free and to learn more about how it works, please visit http://delawarerelay.com.

The Department of Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.


Delaware Public Health Officials Confirm First Two Flu Cases of the 2021-2022 Season, Including First Pediatric Case

DOVER (NOV. 1, 2021) – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing the state’s first two laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza for the 2021-2022 flu season, including the first pediatric case of the season. The cases involve a Kent County child under the age of 5, infected with influenza strain B, who was hospitalized, as well as a 26-year-old Sussex County woman, with influenza strain A, who was not hospitalized. Neither individual had received the flu vaccine.

“This first case of the flu is an excellent reminder for us to get our flu vaccine as soon as possible,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We must not get lulled into a false sense of security with last year’s unusually low case numbers. With Delawareans resuming pre-pandemic activities, the flu is a definite threat to our health. Because hospitals and physicians’ offices are already taxed with COVID-19 cases, we must do everything we can to prevent adding more to their burden and the flu vaccine is a very good start.”

The flu vaccine is recommended for Delawareans 6 months of age and older and can be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine. Since it takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, it is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to give your body time to build immunity. Getting the flu vaccine now will also provide protection during the entire flu season.

During the pre-pandemic 2019-2020 flu season, Delaware recorded more than 7,000 laboratory-confirmed flu cases. Nearly 400 Delawareans were hospitalized due to the flu and 11 people died from flu complications.  During the 2020-2021 flu season, there were 26 confirmed cases of the flu, one hospitalization and one death.

DPH is offering flu vaccines when staff are out providing COVID-19 vaccines at community-based events. These events are listed at de.gov/getmyvaccine under the Community-Based events section (indicated by *DPH mobile trailer, flu vaccines also available). Additionally, a schedule for flu vaccines at Public Health clinics for uninsured and underinsured individuals can be found at: https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html.  Flu vaccines also are offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and some grocery stores. To locate where flu vaccines near you are being offered, Google “CDC flu finder” and enter your ZIP code. The flu is easy to transmit, and you can get it even from seemingly healthy, but unvaccinated, children and adults. Children, older adults, and those who have chronic underlying medical conditions are most at risk for complications from the flu and are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated now.

In addition to getting an annual flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu the same way they can prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses:

  • wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue
  • wear a face covering when in public
  • maintain 6 feet of space between others, especially those who reside outside of your own home
  • avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

The flu and COVID-19 have many similar symptoms. They include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headaches. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that are different from flu include a change in or loss of taste or smell. If you are sick, the best thing to do is call your health care provider to see if you should get tested for COVID-19 or come in for a visit.

Those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever – with a temperature of less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C), without the use of fever-reducing medications – for at least 24 hours. People with flu symptoms should avoid close contact with well people in the household – you can give someone the flu 24 hours before you show symptoms and five to seven days after you get sick. Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but if you suspect you have influenza, call your doctor as they may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.

Today’s flu cases will be reported in the DPH Flu Surveillance Report later this week. For more information about the flu and where to get vaccinated, visit [flu.delaware.gov]flu.delaware.gov or call 1-800-282-8672.


Weekly COVID-19 Update – Oct. 29, 2021: COVID-19 Cases / Hospitalizations Continue to Decrease

DOVER (OCT. 29, 2021) – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is providing an update on the most recent statistics related to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in Delaware, as of 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021.

  • Total positive cases since March 11, 2020: 143,563
  • 7-day average of new positive cases: 265.9, a decrease from 331.4 last week
  • 7-day average for the percentage of total positive tests: 6.2%, a decrease from 6.9% last week
  • Hospitalizations: 160, a decrease of 13 from last week; Critically ill: 26, an increase of two from last week
  • Total COVID-19 deaths: 2,089
  • Total COVID-19 deaths since last week: 44 (including 30 from a review of vital statistic reports)

COVID-19 Vaccinations:

  • Total number of doses administered in Delaware: 1,269,957
  • Percentage of Delawareans 12+ who have received at least one dose (CDC data): 79.8%
  • Percentage of Delawareans 18+ who received at least one dose (CDC data): 81.5%
  • Delawareans who are fully vaccinated: 532,524

Delawareans who are fully vaccinated have significant protection from COVID-19 infection, serious illness and death. All qualifying Delawareans should get vaccinated. For the latest information on the COVID-19 vaccine in Delaware, visit de.gov/getmyvaccine. Delaware’s latest COVID-19 vaccination statistics can be found under the Vaccine Tracker dashboard at de.gov/healthycommunity.

COVID-19 Case Vaccination Status Report: 

The following report captures a weekly breakdown of vaccination status for cases, deaths, and hospitalizations for the time frame for Oct. 18 – Oct 24. The report highlights the significant percentage of unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated individuals comprising Delaware’s cases and hospitalizations.

Weekly Overview
(10/18 -10/24)

Unvaccinated Cases

Total Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated Cases

1603

Total Cases

2166

Percent of Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated Cases

74%

Hospitalizations

Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated Hospitalized  Cases

48

Total Hospitalized Cases

71

Percent of Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated Hospitalized  Cases

68%

Deaths

Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated COVID-19 Deaths

15

Total COVID-19 Deaths

17

Percent of Unvaccinated / Partially Vaccinated COVID-19 Deaths

88%

Breakthrough Cases (cumulative since vaccinations began): 

  • Fully vaccinated Delawareans: 532,524
  • Total breakthrough cases: 5,517 or 1% of vaccinated individuals
  • Total breakthrough hospitalizations: 103
  • Total breakthrough deaths: 77

A breakthrough case is defined as testing positive for COVID-19 after an individual has been fully vaccinated for two weeks or more – although it does not mean that the infection occurred after vaccination.

COVID-19 Variant Cases in Delaware:

In the last week, 118 test samples were sequenced through routine surveillance of test specimens. Of those test samples, 95 (41.1%) sequenced at the DPH Lab were positive for a variant strain, as were 23 additional specimens sequenced at an outside lab. Out of the 118variant positive samples, all were identified as the Delta strain. Due to a technical issue, the number of specimens sampled this week was reduced. The issue is being resolved.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated the classifications of known COVID-19 variants. Currently, the Delta variant is the only variant being monitored by the CDC as a “variant of concern” and no other variants are currently classified as “variants of interest.” For more information regarding CDC variant classifications, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/variant-surveillance/variant-info.html.

DPH COVID-19 Vaccine Mobile Units:

DPH officials in partnership with medical staff from the Delaware National Guard (DNG) have launched mobile units to offer COVID-19 vaccines in underserved communities. The flu vaccine will also be available and can be administered at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine.

The mobile units, which utilize trailers to transport the vaccine and provide vaccinations, are scheduled to visit these communities in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties next week. COVID-19 testing will be available at each location.

Monday, November 1

Delmar Wawa, 38711 Sussex Hwy, Delmar, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Laurel Royal Farm, 30983 Sussex Hwy, Laurel, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Tuesday, November 2

Diamond Court, 35 Diamond Court, Harrington, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Byler’s Store, 17104 S Dupont Hwy, Harrington, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Wednesday, November 3

Royal Farms, 6538 Hall Town Road, Hartly, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Rose Hill Community Center, 19 Lambson Lane, New Castle, 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Calvary Baptist Church, 410 Fulton Street, Dover, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Adams Four Shopping Center, 800 West Third Street, Wilmington, 2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Thursday, November 4

Dollar General, 701 N Porter Street, Seaford, 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Glasgow Trailer Court, 268 Cornell Drive, Newark, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Friday, November 5

Bethel Market, 7743 Main Street, Bethel, 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Capital Park, 1 President Drive, Dover, 10:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Brandywine Apartments, 2726 Jacqueline Drive, Wilmington, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Saturday, November 6

Tabernacle Full Gospel Baptist Church, 501 North Washington Street, Wilmington, 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

*dates may be rescheduled if there is inclement weather

For a full list of community-based events statewide including those organized by vaccinating partners and community groups at de.gov/getmyvaccine.

Long-term Care Statistics: 

As of 6:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 28, there have been a total of 2,918 positive COVID-19 cases involving long-term care residents, and 858 residents of Delaware long-term care facilities have died from complications related to COVID-19.

Resources:

Individuals with general questions about COVID-19 should call Delaware 2-1-1, individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing can text their ZIP code to 898-211, or email delaware211@uwde.org. Hours of operation are:

Monday – Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Medically related questions regarding testing, symptoms, and health-related guidance can be submitted by email at DPHCall@delaware.gov.

Delawareans 18 or older are encouraged to download COVID Alert DE, Delaware’s free exposure notification app to help protect your neighbors while ensuring your privacy. Download on the App Store or Google Play

DPH will continue to update the public as more information becomes available. For the latest on Delaware’s response, go to de.gov/coronavirus.


National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week – Delaware Sees Concerning Decrease in Childhood Lead Testing During Pandemic

DOVER (October 27, 2021) – National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLLPW) is October 24 to 30 and the Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is strongly encouraging all parents to get their babies and toddlers their regular tests for lead exposure. Delaware regulations require that each child in Delaware get a blood lead level test at or around 12 months of age and again at 24 months.

As the COVID-19 pandemic began shutting down Delaware businesses in 2020, DPH saw another slowdown — far fewer babies and toddlers are being tested for lead exposure. A recent review of Delaware childhood blood lead testing data shows a significant decrease in childhood lead screenings in 2020 due to the pandemic. Lead testing rates dropped by an average of 54% in the first six months of 2020, compared to 2019. During the first six months of 2021, childhood lead testing rates in Delaware dropped by an average of 63%, compared to 2019.

Children younger than age 6, including unborn babies, are most susceptible to lead poisoning because their brains and central nervous systems are still developing. Childhood lead poisoning permanently damages the brain, leading to learning disabilities and other health problems.

“There is really no safe level of lead in the blood, so it is essential for those who may have missed getting their child tested to do so immediately,” said DPH Director, Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Testing is an easy way to detect a problem and prevent further exposure.”

The Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at DPH encourages physicians to order a blood lead-level test for children for the following important reasons:

  • Children and families are spending more time in their homes during the pandemic, increasing their risk of lead exposure from paint and dust, the primary sources of lead poisoning.
  • Many families and property owners in older homes are also using this time to initiate Do-It-Yourself home projects or renovations, further increasing the risk of lead exposure.

In conjunction with National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Delawareans are invited to attend an educational CDC webinar, “Childhood Lead Exposure in the United States: CDC’s Role in Prevention, Education, and Surveillance,” on Thursday, October 28, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. CDC experts will discuss sources of lead in children’s environments, populations at higher risk, current trends among children in the U.S., prevention strategies, and current initiatives. To register: https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_pV4XkcWNRiW11zFVfNNuhw. A Spanish version of the webinar will be held on October 28, from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. To register: https://www.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_vKNLqoJfQ3emlKmZPS2IUg.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes and partners are offering six engaging webinars featuring stakeholders from across the federal government and housing sector. For more information about these programs, including registration links, visit https://www.hud.gov/sites/dfiles/HH/documents/NLPPW_Webinar_Program_2021.pdf

For additional information about childhood lead poisoning, contact the DPH Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 302-744-4546, ext. 5, or visit https://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/hsp/lead.html.


Residents of Small Sussex Community Advised Not to Drink Water During Evaluation of Contaminant Near Advisory Level

DOVER (OCT. 23, 2021) – Out of an abundance of caution, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is advising residents of the Bethany Crest community near Millville to use bottled water for drinking and cooking while their water system is evaluated for a concentration of per and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) that is near or at a health advisory level for PFAS in drinking water.

Bethany Crest is a manufactured housing community with a small water system serving approximately 50 homes. On October 21, 2021, DPH received notice that a water sample collected on October 11 showed source water in the system serving Bethany Crest with a concentration of PFAS at 70 parts per trillion, which is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) health advisory level for these compounds in drinking water. This sample was of source water to the system, not the finished drinking water after treatment. The sample was collected as part of a proactive screening of public water sources throughout the state being conducted by the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC). Two previous Bethany Crest samples in recent months had found concentrations near the advisory level, prompting repeat testing for confirmation.

The owner of the community and the operator of the water system were notified Friday and agreed to provide bottled water to residents as recommended by DPH as a precaution. Information on the finding was being distributed to residents Friday and Saturday.

DPH and DNREC are working with the operator of the Bethany Crest water system to test the finished drinking water going to homes to determine whether current treatment methods for the system may already be reducing the PFAS levels from the source water. Samples of finished drinking water from Bethany Crest, and samples of source water from other wells in the area, will be taken this weekend and submitted to a laboratory for analysis.

DPH is evaluating the Bethany Crest treatment system and will provide technical guidance for any needed upgrades or additions to the system for reducing PFAS. DNREC is conducting an assessment to identify potential sources of the contamination and to determine if other area wells show similar PFAS levels.

PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals used in industry and consumer products. Due to their extensive use in these products over time, PFAS are found in people, wildlife, and fish and are known as “forever chemicals” because some PFAS can stay in people’s bodies a long time and cause health problems with long-term exposure.