DPH Confirms First Flu Cases in Children for 2017 – 2018 Season

The words Get Flu Shot written on a CalendarDOVER – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is reporting the state’s first laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza in children, for the 2017-2018 flu season. Both children are under the age of 4. One is a young male from Sussex County, and the other a female from New Castle County. The pediatric cases bring the total number of flu cases this season to 14 for the week ending Nov. 11, 2017. Another eight cases have been preliminarily confirmed for the week ending Nov. 18, with the potential for more to be reported. There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus – types A and B – that routinely spread in people and are responsible for seasonal flu outbreaks each year. Both pediatric cases of lab-confirmed influenza are type A.

DPH urges all Delawareans 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated soon if they have not yet done so. The flu is easy to transmit and you can get it even from seemingly healthy, but unvaccinated, children and adults. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against influenza virus infection, it is important to get the flu shot as early as possible to give your body time to build immunity. The intranasal vaccine (flu mist) is not being recommended this year based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s analysis, which showed the intramuscular vaccine was better at protecting against certain strains of influenza.

Vaccinations not only prevent people from getting the flu, but they can reduce the severity of flu illness and prevent visits to the doctor, clinic, emergency room, hospitalizations, and serious consequences (including death) from influenza. Vaccinated people have less chance of missing family, school and work events due to influenza illness.

Getting a flu vaccination is easy. They are offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and some grocery stores. DPH is also offering flu vaccines at its Public Health clinics in several State Service Centers including some with evening hours. For more information about the flu and where to get vaccinated, visit www.flu.delaware.gov, call 1-800-282-8672, or Google “CDC flu finder” and enter a ZIP code.

Last flu season, Delaware had 4,590 confirmed flu cases, 15 of which were fatal.

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.

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◦ F (37.8◦ C), without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

They should avoid close contact with well people in the household, 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.

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.


Equine vaccinations essential during peak mosquito season

DOVER – This year’s wet spring weather provided optimal conditions for mosquito breeding, and thus a large population of mosquitoes. Late summer coincides with peak mosquito season, which brings an increased risk of mosquito-borne diseases such as West Nile Virus (WNV) and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) for humans, but also for horses.

“Owners are encouraged to talk to their veterinarian about having their horses vaccinated against these viruses,” said Delaware State Veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst. “It may take several weeks for a horse’s immune system to mount a response to the disease after the vaccine is given so owners should have their horses vaccinated as soon as possible.”

In nature, WNV and EEE are maintained in a cycle between mosquitoes and wild birds. Mosquitoes that feed on the infected wild birds may then bite humans or horses, infecting them with the viruses. Neither WNV nor EEE can be transmitted between horses or from horses to people.

Last week, the Delaware Division of Public Health Laboratory reported this year’s first finding of WNV in blood samples taken from DNREC’s sentinel chickens that are monitored for mosquito-borne diseases. The samples are collected as part of a statewide surveillance program conducted by DNREC’s Mosquito Control Section.

Delaware has not had any cases of WNV or EEE in horses, humans, or wild birds thus far in 2017. Illnesses were last seen in one Delaware horse with WNV in 2015 and two horses with EEE in 2013. However, several states south of Delaware have reported cases this year, including Virginia and South Carolina in July.

Both WNV and EEE cause severe, and sometimes fatal, infections in horses. 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 steps in the barn and around the farm to help protect horses from WNV and EEE. 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, Community Relations Officer, 302-698-4542, stacey.hofmann@delaware.gov


DPH Announces Potential Young Child Death From Flu

Dover – Even as flu season in Delaware is winding down, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is announcing a potential flu-related death to a child under the age of 2. If confirmed, that would bring the total number of flu-related fatalities for the 2016-2017 flu season to 15. The child passed away near the end of April. To protect the privacy of the child and the family no further information about the child will be released.

“The death of a child is tragic under any circumstances, and our hearts and prayers go out to the child’s family during this very difficult time,” said Dr. Kara Odom Walker, Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services. “We hope that by sharing this information, we can reach other parents with a reminder that influenza is still circulating in the community and young children, particularly those under age two, are especially at risk if they contract the virus.”

“The influenza virus can continue to circulate even during the summer months,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “It is important that everyone, and especially those in high-risk groups like young children, continue to take precautions. If you’re experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should immediately consult your doctor, especially if you have underlying health conditions, are under age 5, over age 65 or pregnant.”

As of the week ending April 29, there were 26 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza reported among Delaware residents with a total of 4,525 cases for the season. Of the 4,525 cases, 810 were ages 4 and under. Thirty-seven children ages 4 or under have also been hospitalized due to the flu.

Of the laboratory-confirmed flu cases this season, 2,159 (47.7 percent) involved infected individuals are from New Castle County, 1,374 (30.4 percent) are from Kent County, and 992 (21.9 percent) are from Sussex County. These numbers reflect lab-confirmed cases and the actual number of illnesses is likely much higher.

Precautions against the flu continue to be vital, including:

  • Vaccination.
  • Washing hands frequently with soap or using 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.


DPH Announces Second Flu Death of the Season: Holds Annual Legislative Hall Flu Clinic

DOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) held its final community flu clinic of the 2016-2017 flu season on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017 at the Legislative Hall Library. The annual event is open to the public and 31 people were vaccinated.

Additionally, DPH is announcing the second flu-related death for the 2016-2017 season. A 98-year-old New Castle County woman who had underlying health conditions and passed away last week. She had been diagnosed with influenza A.

To date, Delaware has 285 confirmed flu cases for the 2016-2017 season, with 77 requiring hospitalization. Of the 285 confirmed cases, 138 have been in New Castle County, 93 in Kent County, and 54 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 Director Dr. Karyl Rattay says flu activity, which generally ramps up in January and February, has increased significantly in the past two weeks, and is much higher than at this time last year. The percentage of flu-related hospitalizations is also higher than last year at this time, and many of the hospitalized are elderly persons.

“Flu season is in full swing,” said Rattay, “but it’s still not too late to get vaccinated for this year as we continue to see flu cases into May. The vaccine takes two weeks to take effect so it is important that if you have not yet received your flu vaccine, you do so at your earliest convenience.”

Everyone over 6 months old, including the elderly and pregnant women, should receive an annual flu vaccination to protect against the virus. Getting vaccinated protects not only you, but also your family, friends, co-workers, and everyone around you by decreasing their chances of contracting the virus.

The flu can be particularly hard on the elderly and other vulnerable people, such as those with underlying health conditions. Dr. Rattay encouraged loved ones of vulnerable populations to make sure they and any health care workers and assisted living staff are vaccinated. Family and friends should check on vulnerable persons regularly, especially if they do develop flu-like symptoms, 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.

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.

Flu shots will still be available at DPH clinics located within the State Service Centers. A list 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/.

The annual flu vaccination is your best protection against the virus, but DPH stressed 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, and staying home from work, school, or other engagements if you are sick with flu-like illnesses. 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.

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.


Rabid Cat Confirmed In Dover Mobile Home Park

DOVER – A cat living at Kings Cliff Mobile Home Park in Dover has tested positive for rabies. The Division of Public Health (DPH) is working closely with Dover Animal Control who is helping to alert the neighborhood by going door-to-door with flyers. DPH has recommended to three individuals to begin post-exposure treatment to prevent rabies. Anyone who thinks they may have been bitten, scratched, or had saliva contact with a feral cat or cats in the Kings Cliff area should contact their healthcare provider, or call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 888-295-5156. The rabid cat found at Kings Cliff was a calico female, a mix of yellow, brown, black, and gray.

DPH reminds residents that rabies is endemic in Delaware. Residents should always take precautions against rabies by avoiding wild or unfamiliar animals and ensuring their pets are up-to-date with rabies shots.

Infection can occur through the bite or scratch of an infected animal or if saliva from such an animal gets into the eyes, nose, mouth or an opening in the skin. Rabies cannot be cured once symptoms appear. Therefore if a person is potentially exposed to an animal that tests positive for rabies, they will have to receive rabies shots (post-exposure prophylaxis) to prevent the disease from developing.

Since January 2015, DPH has performed rabies tests on 87 animals, nine of which were confirmed to be rabid, including this cat. DPH only tests animals for rabies when there is potential human exposure. This means there may be many more infected wild animals than suggested by these numbers.

Signs of rabies in animals include daytime activity in normally nocturnal animals, wild animals approaching humans or other animals, and difficulty walking or moving. Some rabid animals may be very aggressive, while others may be very weak and have excessive salivation. Keep people and pets away from animals with any unusual behavior.

Take the following steps to avoid rabies:

  • Do not feed stray animals.
  • Never handle wild animals such as bats, raccoons, skunks, or foxes. This includes sick, injured or dead animals.
  • If you wake up in a room with a bat present, seek medical attention regardless of the evidence of a bite or a scratch and call the DPH Office of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at 888-295-5156. If possible, trap the bat for testing. Do not release the bat.
  • If bitten by an animal, place the wound under a running tap water and clean it thoroughly using soap for about five minutes. Exposed mucous membranes should be well rinsed with water. A virucidal antiseptic such as povidone-iodine, iodine tincture, aqueous iodine solution, or alcohol (ethanol) should be applied after washing. If there is no profuse bleeding, do not try to close up or stitch the wound. Seek medical attention immediately.
  • Teach children never to approach or handle unfamiliar domestic or wild animals, even if they appear friendly. Never leave a child unattended with an animal, no matter how friendly or docile the animal appears.
  • Keep pet vaccinations up-to-date. Delaware law requires that all dogs, cats, and ferrets be vaccinated against rabies.
  • Keep cats and ferrets indoors and dogs on a leash under direct supervision. Homeless pets are vulnerable to rabies. Help reduce unwanted animals by spaying and neutering pets.
  • Prevent bats and raccoons from entering homes by capping chimneys with screens and blocking openings in attics, cellars, and porches. Ensure trash cans have tight latching lids.

In an effort to promote 100 percent vaccination of all companion animals in Delaware, decrease human-wildlife conflicts, and promote responsible pet care-taking, DPH also recommends the following:

  • By law, all cats, dogs, and ferrets over the age of 6 months must be vaccinated against rabies. DPH also recommends vaccinating against other diseases, such as distemper and the parvo virus.
  • Pet cats should be kept indoors for their own safety and well-being. Cats can live happy lives indoors with proper enrichment and family play time. Cats that roam outside can be hit by cars, attacked by other animals, or can be exposed to parasites and diseases.
  • If you care for cats living outdoors, ensure those cats are current on rabies vaccinations and are spayed or neutered. Spaying/neutering cats will eliminate the urge to fight, reducing the likelihood of disease transmission through bite injuries.
  • Never feed wildlife intentionally or unintentionally with unsecured trash. If you care for cats living outdoors, always remove uneaten food after feeding times. This will prevent unwanted wildlife from being attracted to the food and wandering into places where people also reside. This will reduce the likelihood of wildlife attacks on humans or pets.
  • Never approach or handle unfamiliar free-roaming cats. If there are free-roaming cats living in your area, contact a local organization with the expertise and training to trap the cats to have them vaccinated and spayed or neutered to improve neighborhood safety from disease and reduce unwanted litters.

For more information about rabies, visit dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/dpc/rabies.html.

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Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Delaware Health and Social ServicesDivision of Public Health