DOVER – The Division of Public Health (DPH) is reminding Delawareans to protect themselves and those around them this influenza season by getting vaccinated as DPH announces the first two flu-related deaths of the 2019-2020 flu season. A 68-year-old woman infected with influenza A, and a 65-year-old man infected with influenza B, passed away this week as a result of complications from the flu. Both individuals were Sussex County residents and both had underlying health conditions.
As of Dec. 28, 2019, the most recent date for which flu statistics are available, there have been 1,083 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Delaware. This number reflects only the number of lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher as not all people with the flu seek treatment, and many cases are diagnosed through rapid test kits in a provider’s office versus a lab. In addition, 65 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since the start of the flu season. During the week of Dec. 22 to Dec. 28, 2019, there were 470 new lab-confirmed cases, the highest increase in a single week since the start of the flu season on October 1, 2019. During the same time last year, there was a total of 681 lab-confirmed cases of flu statewide, including 140 hospitalizations.
“The deaths of these two Delawareans is a tragic reminder of how dangerous the flu can be, particularly to individuals who already have weakened immune systems,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased, as well as those still battling the flu. We continue to encourage Delawareans to get their flu vaccines and make sure everyone in their family gets theirs, too. The vaccine will lower your likelihood of getting the flu and can lessen the severity of your symptoms if you do catch it. You should also be sure to take any antiviral medicines that your primary care provider prescribes.”
In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication as directed, DPH recommends that you:
• Practice social distancing by keeping your distance from well people if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
• Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow.
Social distancing means that 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 less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) without the use of fever-reducing medications – for at least 24 hours. They should avoid close contact with well people in the household and 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 primary care provider as he or she 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.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. People with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and asthma are more susceptible to catching the flu.
Flu vaccines are still available at many pharmacies and grocery stores, and through primary care physicians and some specialists. To find participating stores, enter your ZIP code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s flu vaccine finder at www.cdc.gov/flu/. Flu shots continue to be available at DPH clinics located within the Department of Health and Social Services’ State Service Centers:
• Porter State Service Center, 509 W. Eighth St., Wilmington. For all ages 9 and up. Walk-ins are welcome Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to noon and from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
• Hudson State Service Center, 501 Ogletown Road, Newark. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 302-283-7587 (choose Option 2) to make an appointment Monday through Friday.
• Williams State Service Center, 805 River Road, Dover. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 302-857-5140 to make an appointment Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Milford State Service Center – Riverwalk, 253 N.E. Front St., Milford. For ages 9 years and older. Mondays and Fridays. Walk-ins are accepted on Mondays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. By appointment only on Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 302-424-7130 to make an appointment.
• Anna C. Shipley State Service Center, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
• Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome on Mondays only from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
For more information about the flu, visit flu.delaware.gov/ or call DPH at 1-800-282-8672.
A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person’s spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, 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.