DPH Announces Three Additional Flu-Related Deaths

DOVER  — The number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases continues to increase in Delaware, and the Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing three recent flu-related deaths, bringing the total number of deaths for the 2018-2019 season thus far to eight. The most recent victim is an 83-year-old man from New Castle County, with underlying health conditions, who passed away this week. Additionally, last week, a 41-year-old New Castle County woman with suspected underlying health complications and a 74-year-old Sussex County woman with multiple underlying health conditions passed away due to complications from the flu. Of the eight individuals who have passed away this season, they range in age from 41 to 83. Four persons were from Sussex County, one was from Kent County and three were from New Castle County. All were infected with Influenza A.

The Division of Public Health continues to encourage residents to get their flu vaccine if they have not done so. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that influenza is widespread in most of the country and expects significant flu activity to continue for weeks. It is not too late to get a flu vaccine.

As of Jan. 19, 2019, the most recent date for which statistics are available, there have been 1,268 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in Delaware. This number reflects only the number of lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher. Additionally, 224 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since the start of the flu season. These numbers are similar to the 2017-2018 season when at the same time, there were 1,289 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza and 297 hospitalizations.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the most recent Delawareans who have lost their lives as a result of the influenza virus this season,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “It is important that we all take precautions to prevent catching and spreading the flu. The first and best way to protect yourself from the flu is by getting your annual flu vaccine and making sure everyone in your family has received it, as well. The flu vaccine protects against up to four strains of the virus and can help lessen the severity of symptoms if you do become sick.”

Flu vaccines are still available at State Service Centers, primary care providers and specialists, pharmacies, and some grocery stores. To find participating stores, enter your zip code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) flu vaccine finder at www.cdc.gov/flu/. For more information about the flu, visit flu.delaware.gov/ or call DPH at 1-800-282-8672. The CDC recommends use of any licensed, age-appropriate influenza vaccine, including inactivated influenza vaccine [IIV], recombinant influenza vaccine [RIV], or live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV). If you have questions about which vaccine is best for you, talk to your doctor or other health care professional.

Flu shots are available at DPH clinics located within the 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 4:30 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. Call 302-424-7130 to make an appointment on Mondays from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
• 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 Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. For information, call 302-628-6772.
• Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome on Thursdays only from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

The flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to take full effect, so anyone who has not yet received the vaccine should make an effort to get one as soon as possible. In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication, DPH recommends the following:
• Practice social distancing if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
• Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available, sneeze or cough into your inner elbow.
• Stay home if you are sick until you are free of fever for 24 hours – 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.

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 of 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 doctor 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.

Unlike colds, which develop gradually, 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.

For more information about flu surveillance in Delaware, read the weekly flu report at dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/influenzawkly.html.

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.


Third equine case of West Nile Virus confirmed in Delaware

DOVER, Del. – The Office of the State Veterinarian announced today Delaware’s third case of West Nile Virus (WNV) found in horses in 2018.

The infected equine is a 10-year-old pony gelding that was purchased from a Pennsylvania livestock auction and transported to a premises in New Castle County, DE on August 27. On August 30, the pony was observed to have a fever, was leaning and walking sideways. He progressed to show signs of wobbling and staggering, decreased tail tone, and facial nerve deficits. Samples were submitted to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory, which confirmed the diagnosis of WNV on September 7. The vaccination history for this pony is unknown. His condition is reported to be improving.

This is the third case of WNV reported in Delaware horses in 2018. The first and second cases were diagnosed in August, and occurred in a 3-year-old Standardbred mare residing in Kent County with unknown vaccination status and a 2-year-old Thoroughbred mare also residing in Kent County that was not up-to-date on its WNV vaccine. The Thoroughbred horse was euthanized due to the severity of its illness.

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. Two cases of WNV were confirmed in Delaware horses in 2017.

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s (DNREC) Mosquito Control Section has seen an increase of WNV found in wild birds and sentinel chickens this year throughout the state. Three detections of EEE, two in Sussex and one in New Castle County, have been made in sentinel chickens in the last month. So far in Delaware in 2018, five cases of WNV have been found in humans.

The State Veterinarian urges horse owners to contact their veterinarians as soon as possible, as we are in the midst of peak mosquito season, to have horses and other equines vaccinated against WNV and EEE. Neither disease has a specific drug treatment, and EEE infections in horses are fatal in 70 to 90 percent of cases, and WNV in 30 percent of cases.

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.

For more information about WNV or EEE:

• Human health questions should be directed to the Delaware Division of Public Health, (888) 295-5156, or (302) 744-4990.

• Animal health questions should be directed to the Delaware Department of Agriculture at (800) 282-8685 (Delaware only) or (302) 698-4500. Ask for the Poultry and Animal Health Section.

• Questions about the state’s mosquito control program or mosquito biology should be directed to the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Mosquito Control Section at (302) 739-9917.

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Media Contact: Stacey Hofmann, 302-698-4500, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov


Flu is in Delaware! DPH Announces Influenza Cases Just Before Official Start of 2018-2019 season

The words Get Flu Shot written on a CalendarDOVER — The Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing two laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, just three weeks before the official start of the 2018-2019 flu season, which begins September 30. Two women, one 50 years old from Sussex County, and one 70 years old from New Castle County, were diagnosed with the flu within the last week. Both were diagnosed with A strain influenza; neither was hospitalized. During the 2017-2018 flu season, Delaware recorded 9,041 flu cases, (including the above) the highest number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases since record keeping began in 2005, and 35 flu-related deaths. Last season’s first flu cases were not confirmed until late October.

“While it is unusual to see flu occur this early, we should not rush to assume that means this coming season will be a harsh one,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “The flu is unpredictable. But what is predictable is that getting your annual flu vaccine can prevent you from getting the flu, and from spreading it to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. The flu is highly contagious and can even be deadly so we urge you to get your flu vaccine now. It is not too early.”
The flu vaccine is recommended for Delawareans 6 months of age and older. Since it takes about 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.

On Friday, Oct. 5, DPH will hold a free flu clinic at the Porter State Service Center, 511 W. 8th St., Wilmington, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The first 200 people to get their flu vaccines will receive a free gift card. On Tuesday, Oct. 9, DPH will hold a drive-thru flu clinic at the DelDOT Administration Building, 800 S. Bay Road, Dover, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or until vaccines run out. Eagle 97.7 and Cool 101.3 will hold live broadcasts. Both clinics will be held rain or shine.

DPH will also offer various other flu clinics throughout the season. A schedule can be found at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. Flu vaccines are also 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 a ZIP code.

The flu is easy to transmit and you can get it even from seemingly healthy, but unvaccinated, children and adults. Vaccinations not only prevent people from getting the flu, but they can also reduce the severity of flu illness and prevent visits to the doctor, clinic, emergency room, along with hospitalizations and serious consequences (including death) from influenza. Vaccinated people have less chance of missing family, school and work events due to influenza illness.

In addition to getting an annual flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illness with good hygiene: Wash 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 a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

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. 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 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 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.
For more information about the flu and where to get vaccinated, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 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.

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 Investigating Outbreak of Whooping Cough in Kent County; Urging Residents to Get Vaccinated

DOVER – The Division of Public Health (DPH) is investigating an outbreak of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, in Kent County. Whooping cough is a highly contagious disease transmitted by coughing or sneezing, or coming in direct contact with respiratory secretions of infected persons. The most common symptom is uncontrollable coughing spells often followed by a characteristic “whoop” sound. The disease can cause severe illness in infants and young children.

The outbreak investigation began in June when DPH learned of cases occurring among the county’s Amish population. Pertussis is a reportable disease in Delaware, and notification to DPH of confirmed or suspected cases is required. As of August 18, 2018, DPH had identified 97 cases of the disease among Amish individuals. On August 22, DPH received confirmation that the disease has spread, infecting a Kent County child, whose family has ties to the Amish, but lives outside of the community.

“This is an extremely serious situation. Whooping cough is a highly communicable disease, and infants and young children are at greatest risk for severe, even deadly, complications,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Pertussis is a vaccine-preventable disease and we are urging everyone to make sure they are up to date on their immunizations. It is the best and most proactive preventive measure you can take.”

Vaccination is the best defense against whooping cough, as well as many other diseases such as influenza, measles and mumps. For children to be fully immunized against whooping cough, they need five doses of the vaccine (at ages 2, 4 and 6 months, between 15 and 18 months, and between 4 and 6 years). Women should also be vaccinated with every pregnancy in order for the infant to have some immunity upon birth. Adults who will have regular contact with children, or parents of a newborn and younger children, should also get vaccinated.

Pertussis may occur among persons of any age, including teens and adults who were vaccinated only at a young age, although infants less than 1 year of age have the highest rates of complications. Whooping cough often makes babies and young children so sick that they need to be hospitalized. Older children, adults, vaccinated individuals and those who have had whooping cough in the past may experience a milder illness, but can still spread the disease to younger members of the community, some of whom may be too young to be fully vaccinated. An infected person can spread the disease starting when symptoms begin to three weeks after the onset of coughing. Coughing frequently lasts for several weeks.

In 2017, 15,808 cases of pertussis were reported nationwide, while Delaware had nine reported cases.

Pertussis is treated with antibiotics. During treatment, individuals who have the disease should stay home and distance themselves from well people in the home as much as possible, cough or sneeze into the inner elbow if tissues aren’t immediately available, and wash hands frequently. After completing a five-day course of antibiotic treatment, the individual can return to work, school or other community activities.

DPH has been working with members of the Amish community to control the spread of the disease by having discussions with Amish leaders, sharing prevention and social distancing tips directly with infected individuals, and distributing flyers with the tips throughout the community. The last outbreak of pertussis in Delaware occurred in early 2014, also among Kent County’s Amish population. More than 200 people were affected.

DPH is asking physicians and other health care providers to consider pertussis when evaluating a patient with a new onset cough illness. Report known or suspected cases of pertussis promptly to the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 302-744-4990, fax to 302-223-1540, or email to reportdisease@delaware.gov.

For Additional Information
• CDC – Pertussis: http://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/
• Pertussis Diagnostic Testing: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/clinical/diagnostic-testing/index.html
• Pertussis Vaccination: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/vaccines.html
• Pertussis Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/about/faqs.html
• Postexposure Antimicrobial Prophylaxis: https://www.cdc.gov/pertussis/outbreaks/pep.html

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.


Weekly Flu Cases Hit Record High Again; DPH Reports Five Additional Flu-Related Deaths

DOVER — Single-week totals for flu cases are again hitting record highs. For the week of February 11-18, 2018, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is reporting 1,521 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases. The total number of flu cases for the season is now at 5,758, an all-time high since record-keeping began with the 2004-2005 season. These numbers only reflect only laboratory-confirmed flu cases and the actual number of flu cases in the community is likely much higher.graphic of the words flu season, a thermometer and aspirinr

In addition to the 1,521 new lab-confirmed cases, DPH is also announcing that there have been five more flu-related deaths since February 19. The individuals ranged from 62 to 86 years old and all had underlying health conditions. Three were from New Castle County, one was from Kent County, and one was from Sussex County. These five deaths bring the season total to 23. The most deaths reported in a single season was 28 in 2014-2015.

“I cannot stress strongly enough that people should continue to stay home while sick, contact their doctor at first sign of illness and continue to engage in frequent hand-washing and covering of coughs and sneezes to prevent the spread of the flu virus,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Flu is still very much active in our state.”

If you are sick, do not go to school or work until you are fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication. Call your primary care provider or visit a walk-in center if you don’t have one, as soon as symptoms develop, as they may choose to prescribe antivirals for treatment, without an office visit. Wash your hands frequently and wipe down frequently touched surfaces with soap and water or disinfecting products. Cough or sneeze into tissues or into your inner elbow, if tissues are not available.

Individuals who develop influenza-like-illness symptoms are encouraged to contact their primary care provider (PCP) for treatment recommendations, or visit a walk-in care center if you do not have a PCP, instead of going to the emergency room. People who are extremely ill with symptoms such as trouble breathing, bluish skin color, fever with a rash, dizziness or severe or persistent vomiting should seek out immediate medical help. Your primary care provider may decide to provide antiviral medications to help speed up recovery and prevent serious complications without an in-office visit. DPH asks medical providers to begin antiviral treatment for all hospitalized patients and all high-risk patients with suspected influenza.

Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is indicating that the flu season may be peaking at the national level, DPH cannot say whether Delaware has peaked yet.

“Delawareans should not take any initial discussions of flu season peaking nationally as an indicator that they should relax the preventive measures we have been discussing. Flu will continue to circulate widely in our state for weeks to come,” said Dr. Rattay.

Flu activity nationally is higher now than what has been observed at the peak of many seasons, and activity will likely remain high for several weeks to come. Additionally, the CDC and DPH continue to recommend that people who have not done so get the flu vaccine, as there is an increasing proportion of influenza B and A (H1N1) viruses being detected. Even if Delaware starts to see a decline in the number of laboratory-confirmed cases, that may be more the result of reduced testing by physicians as opposed to an actual decline in flu activity.

For more information about flu surveillance in Delaware, read the weekly flu report at http://dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/influenzawkly.html.

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.