DPH Announces Three More Flu-Related Deaths; 45-Year-Old Male Had No Known Underlying Health Conditions

Dover – The Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing three more flu-related fatalities for the 2016-2017 flu season. The three recent deaths push flu-related fatalities in Delaware to 14 – more than doubling the 2015-2016 death total of six. Of the 14 Delawareans who have died from the flu this season, 13 had other serious underlying health conditions. However, the most recent flu-related death involved a 45-year-old Kent County man who had no known significant underlying medical conditions beyond being ill with the flu. DPH was not able to verify his vaccination status.

During the last week of March, two New Castle County women passed away from flu-related complications. One was a 53-year-old woman infected with Influenza B, and the second, an 88-year-old woman infected with Influenza A. Both passed away at local hospitals and had multiple underlying medical conditions.

The death of the 45-year-old Kent County man who was known to be otherwise healthy is a reminder that the flu can be unpredictable and even deadly.

“Influenza is a contagious disease that affects the lungs and can lead to serious illness, and, sadly, as we’ve seen far too often this season, even death,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services. “This is a reminder that even healthy people can get sick enough to miss work or school for a significant amount of time, be hospitalized or suffer the most serious consequences. If you think you have the flu, limit your contact with others. Flu is easy to transmit and you can pass it on to your children, other family members, friends, and co-workers long before you know you are ill.”

“DPH continues to keep its thoughts and prayers with the families who have lost someone from the flu,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “The latest deaths are a somber reminder that flu season is still ongoing and taking precautions and recognizing symptoms of the flu are still as important as ever, even if you are not considered part of a high-risk group. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should immediately consult your doctor, especially if you have underlying health conditions.”

As of March 25, there are 3,715 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu in Delaware for the 2016-2017 season. Of the 3,715 cases, 1,771 (47.7 percent) infected individuals are from New Castle County, 1,143 (30.8 percent) are from Kent County, and 801 (21.6 percent) are from Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the actual number of illnesses is likely much higher.

DPH stresses that while getting vaccinated for the flu is the first and best way to protect against the flu, other precautions must also be taken to prevent the spread of flu-like illnesses, including:

  • Washing hands frequently with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after you cough, sneeze, or touch your face.
  • Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and disposing of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet.
  • Staying home when sick and not returning to work or school until you are fever-free for 24 hours.
  • Ensuring all your loved ones are vaccinated against the flu.
  • Taking anti-virals as prescribed by your doctor.

If you are receiving treatment in a long-term care facility or in-home care, ask if the staff is vaccinated against the flu and if not, be certain all non-vaccinated staff members wear a mask at all times. Visits at home or in a facility should be limited if the visitor is under age 16, has the flu, or is at risk of exposure to the flu. The illness can be transmitted prior to someone showing symptoms. If you are living with a senior and a family member contracts the flu, keep the two separate as much as possible and ensure everyone in the home follows sanitary precautions.

DPH recommends that people with flu-like illnesses call — not visit — their medical providers, who may be able to prescribe anti-viral medications by phone.

For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, visit flu.delaware.gov or call DPH at 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.

Delaware 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 Flu Fatalities Increase To 11 – Highest Number Of Illnesses In Over Ten Years

DOVER — Although flu season is beginning to wind down, the number of flu-related deaths in Delaware for the 2016-2017 flu season continues to rise. The Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing three more flu-related fatalities bringing this season’s total to 11.

The second week of March, an 83-year-old New Castle County woman, infected with Influenza B, and a 77-year-old Kent County woman, infected with Influenza A, died. The third week of March, a 76-year-old Sussex County woman, also infected with Influenza A, died. All had underlying health conditions in addition to being ill with the flu.

The recent fatalities nearly double the number of flu-related deaths from the 2015-2016 season during which six Delawareans passed away due to flu-related illnesses, but is still significantly lower than the 2014-2015 season when Delaware saw 28 flu fatalities. The overall number of lab-confirmed flu cases this season, however, is the highest in more than a decade.

As of the week ending March 18, there are 3,366 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Delaware, 1,115 more cases than the 2,251 cases in 2015-2016. Of the 3,366 lab-confirmed cases, 1,650 (49 percent) individuals are from New Castle County, 1,013 (30 percent) are from Kent County, and 703 (21 percent) are from Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the actual number of flu cases in Delaware is likely much higher.

“This year’s flu numbers confirm we have often said about the flu—it’s an unpredictable disease and can impact people differently every year,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Given we know that we are seeing the highest number of cases in a decade, its important the people continue to take precautions to prevent the illness.”

Taking extra precautions and recognizing symptoms of the flu is vitally important, especially for those who have significant medical conditions. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms and have underlying health problems, you should consult your doctor immediately. DPH also reminded Delawareans that in the 2015-2016 flu season, three flu-related deaths occurred in April, so while the season may be winding down, flu cases, as well as fatalities, are still possible.

Delawareans are encouraged to prevent infection by taking simple everyday measures such as washing hands, using hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying at home when sick. These efforts help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses including flu. Anyone who has elderly neighbors or relatives should also check in on them regularly, especially if they have experienced flu-like symptoms or have underlying health conditions.

DPH encourages anyone who may be experiencing flu-like symptoms to call, not visit, their doctor. Doctors may be able to prescribe anti-virals by phone. Flu-like illnesses can come on suddenly and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. While more common in children, some people might also experience vomiting or diarrhea. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Providers can prescribe anti-viral medicines to make illnesses milder, hasten recovery, and prevent serious complications, hospitalizations, and death. Early anti-viral treatment works best, but may be beneficial for hospitalized patients up to four to five days after symptoms begin.

For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, call DPH at 800-282-8672 or visit flu.delaware.gov.

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.

Delaware 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.


Flu Claims Three More Lives In Delaware, Bringing 2016-2017 Total To Eight

DOVER — The total number of lab-confirmed influenza cases continues to increase in Delaware and the virus has now claimed three more lives, bringing the statewide total to eight deaths in the 2016-2017 flu season, the Division of Public Health (DPH) reports. The number of lab-confirmed cases is now 2,712 compared to 416 at this time last year.

All three deceased victims had underlying health conditions in addition to being infected with influenza. The third week of February, a 55-year-old New Castle County man, infected with Influenza B, passed away. The last week of February, a 64-year-old New Castle County man who was infected with Influenza A passed away. Most recently, a 65-year-old Kent County man infected with Influenza B passed away during the first week of March. All passed away at local hospitals.

The recent deaths push this flu season’s fatalities ahead of last year’s when there were six flu-related deaths among Delawareans during the entire 2015-2016 season. Last year, the flu season peaked later, and the first flu-related death didn’t occur until March 14, 2016. Of the 2,712 lab-confirmed cases this year, 1,412 (52 percent) infected individuals are from New Castle County, 756 (28 percent) are from Kent County, and 544 (20 percent) are from Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the actual number of flu cases in Delaware is likely much higher.

“We have said it before, but it is truly important for Delawareans to realize the flu can be unpredictable and deadly,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We urge all Delawareans to stay home from work, school, or other engagements if they feel sick with flu-like illnesses, to wash their hands regularly, to use hand sanitizer, to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, to take anti-virals as prescribed by their doctor, and to get vaccinated for the flu if they have not already done so.”

Those ages 25 and under continue to make up more than half (56 percent) of this season’s flu cases. However, those 65 and older make up 55 percent of those hospitalized for influenza-like illnesses.

Flu-like illnesses can come on suddenly and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. While more common in children, some people might also experience vomiting or diarrhea. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Providers can prescribe anti-viral medicines to make illnesses milder, hasten recovery, and prevent serious complications, hospitalizations, and death. Early anti-viral treatment works best, but may be beneficial for hospitalized patients up to four to five days after symptoms begin. Early anti-viral treatment can reduce influenza morbidity and mortality.

DPH recommends that people with flu-like illnesses call — not visit — their medical providers, who may be able to prescribe anti-viral medications by phone.

DPH suggests the following actions to protect vulnerable populations such as the elderly, the very young, pregnant women, people with underlying medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and people with weakened immune systems:

  • If you are receiving treatment in a long-term care facility or in-home care, ask if the staff is vaccinated against the flu and if not, be certain all non-vaccinated staff members wear a mask at all times.
  • Visits at home or in a facility should be limited if the visitor is under age 16, has the flu, or is at risk of exposure to the flu. The illness can be transmitted prior to someone showing symptoms.
  • If you are living with a senior and a family member contracts the flu, keep the two separate as much as possible and ensure everyone in the home follows sanitary precautions.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after you cough, sneeze, or touch your face.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet.
  • Stay home when sick and do not return to work or school until you are fever-free for 24 hours.
  • Ensure all your loved ones are vaccinated against the flu.

Public Health officials encourage anyone 6 months of age and older, who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu to do so as soon as possible. DPH continues to offer the vaccine at four of the State Service Centers. Information for these sites can be found at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. Additionally, the vaccine is available through medical providers, pharmacies, and some grocery stores.

For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, call the Division of Public Health at 800-282-8672 or visit flu.delaware.gov.

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.

Delaware 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.


DPH Announces Two More Flu-Related Deaths, Urges Delawareans To Increase Prevention Measures

DOVER — Influenza continues to significantly impact Delaware for the 216-2017 flu season. The Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today the fourth and fifth flu-related fatalities in Delaware for the current season, as well as a continued sharp increase in cases for those ages 0 – 24.

Both of the deceased individuals were elderly, and had multiple underlying health conditions in addition to being infected with influenza. The first week of February, an 86-year-old Kent County man, residing in a nursing home, passed away after being transported to the hospital. Last week, a 90-year-old New Castle County man who lived at home passed away. He had also been transported to the hospital as a result of his illness. Both men were infected with Influenza A.

The number of lab-confirmed flu cases this season is significantly higher than last year at this time. As of the week ending Feb. 11, there have been 1,296 lab-confirmed cases in Delaware with 263 requiring hospitalization. In comparison, at the same time last year, there were 58 lab-confirmed flu cases statewide with 10 requiring hospitalization. The 2015-2016 season saw an unusually late peak in flu activity, which generally occurs between December and February. The first flu-related death in Delaware for the 2015-2016 season occurred on March 14, 2016.

Of the 1,296 cases, 772 infected individuals are from New Castle County, 321 from Kent County, and 203 from Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the actual number of flu cases in Delaware is likely much higher.

Of the lab-confirmed cases, 224 individuals are 65 years of age or older. Of the 263 individuals hospitalized so far this flu season, 142 (54 percent) have been 65 or older. While it affects those of all ages, the flu virus is more likely to cause fatalities in the elderly. All five victims who have died from flu-related illnesses this season were elderly individuals (65 years old or older) with underlying health conditions.

Persons in the 0 to 24-year-old age group are also being hit particularly hard this flu season. Of the season’s lab-confirmed flu cases, 704 are in this age group or 54 percent of all cases.

“This year’s flu numbers reinforce the unpredictability of influenza,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker. “Given that we see such wide variation almost every year, taking all the steps to prevent the flu is vital. Getting vaccinated, washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when ill can protect you and your loved ones.”

DPH is still advising that persons with emerging flu symptoms should call — not visit — their medical providers, who may be able to prescribe anti-viral medication. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.

“Flu is not a disease to be taken lightly,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “If someone has underlying health conditions, is pregnant or has a young child at home who is ill, call your doctor immediately if you have flu-like symptoms.”

DPH recommends these actions to protect seniors and vulnerable populations, including the very young, pregnant women, and those who recently gave birth, and people with underlying medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and individuals with weak immune systems:

  • If you are receiving treatment in a long-term care facility or in-home care, ask if the staff is vaccinated against the flu and, if not, the staff person should wear a mask at all times.
  • Visits at home or in a facility should be limited if the visitor is under age 16, or has the flu or is at risk of exposure to the flu. The illness can be transmitted prior to someone showing symptoms.
  • If you are living with a senior and a family member contracts the flu, keep the two separate as much as possible and ensure everyone in the home follows sanitary precautions.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after you cough, sneeze, or touch your face.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet.
  • Stay home when sick and do not return to work or school until 24 hours after a fever is gone.
  • Ensure all your loved ones are vaccinated against the illness. While this year’s vaccine may offer limited protection against one of the flu strains, it does protect well against the other two to three strains of flu. In addition, the vaccination can help make the illness milder and prevent the illnesses due to the other strains circulating in the community. Vaccines are available from DPH clinics, physicians, pharmacies, and many grocery stores.

Public Health officials encourage anyone, 6 months of age and older, who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu to do so as soon as possible. DPH continues to offer the vaccine at four State Service Centers. Information for these sites can be found at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html.

For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, call the Division of Public Health at 800-282-8672 or visit flu.delaware.gov.

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.

Delaware 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.


First Flu-Related Death In Sussex County Senior; Cases Among Children And Youth Surging

DOVER — As influenza continues to spread across Delaware, the Division of Public Health (DPH) announces the first Sussex County flu-related death for the 2016-2017 season. The deceased was a 74-year-old female who was a resident at a long-term care facility. The Delaware Public Health Laboratory confirmed that she had been diagnosed with Influenza A and had multiple underlying health conditions. Her death brings the state total this flu season to three. The three people who died all had underlying health conditions, in addition to being ill with the flu.

Because the flu vaccine takes two weeks to take effect and the season has not yet hit its peak, DPH is reminding Delawareans that it is not too late to receive this year’s flu vaccine.

This flu season is hitting children, teens and young adults particularly hard. The last week of January saw a surge in the number of flu cases among Delawareans ages 5 to 24. There were 142 laboratory-confirmed cases for the week, and more than one-third of them were in individuals in this age group. For this flu season, there have been 283 confirmed cases statewide among those age 5 to 24, with 19 requiring hospitalization. In comparison, during the same week last year, there were only nine persons in this age group who were confirmed to have the flu, and one had been hospitalized.

Last year’s flu season activity did not increase until mid-March. At that time, there were 826 cases of lab-confirmed influenza. As of the week ending February 4, Delaware has confirmed 896 cases of the flu for the 2016-2017 season, with 199 requiring hospitalization. Of the 896 confirmed cases, 511 have been in New Castle County, 226 in Kent County, and 159 in Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the number of individuals in the community with influenza or influenza-like illnesses, is likely much higher. DPH recommends that anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu this season do so immediately.

Flu vaccines are still available at DPH clinics located within the State Service Centers. A list of locations and times is available at http://flu.delaware.gov or by calling 800-282-8672.

Vaccines are also available at many pharmacies and grocery stores, as well as through primary care physicians and some specialists. To find participating stores, enter your ZIP code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) flu vaccine finder at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/.

While the annual flu vaccination is your best protection against the virus, DPH also stresses the importance of taking further precautions against the flu virus such as washing your hands regularly, especially after coughing or sneezing, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue that is immediately disposed of or coughing or sneezing into your elbow rather than your hand, and staying home from work, school, or other engagements if you are sick with flu-like illnesses which include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. While more common in children, some people might also experience vomiting or diarrhea. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet. You should not return to your regular activities until you are fever-free (100 degrees F [37.8 degrees C]), without fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

Contact a doctor if symptoms worsen or someone has an underlying medical condition. A doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs. Antivirals are a second line of defense to treat the flu. It can lessen the symptoms, shorten the illness, and prevent complications. However, a flu vaccine is still the first and best way to prevent the flu.

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.

Delaware 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.