Number of active Delaware flu cases down to six

DOVER — There is some positive health news in Delaware hiding in the shadows behind the ever-increasing rates of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Accounts of the flu in Delaware have decreased to just six laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, with two in each county, in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) for March 29 through April 4 that’s prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The state had 129 flu cases during the same week last year.

It appears as if a busy season for the flu is finally winding down, as Delaware now has compiled 7,075 cases during the 2019-’20 flu season, compared to 6,207 in 2018-’19. There have been 11 deaths associated with influenza this season, compared to 17 the previous year.

“We are happy to see the number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases continue to decrease as we head out of the annual flu season,” said Delaware Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) Division of Public Health spokeswoman Jen Brestel.

“The typical flu season runs from October to May, so it is not surprising to see flu cases starting to decline around this time of year, but is still a good sign that the number of cases are declining.

“However, because of the ongoing risk of COVID-19, the community should continue to practice everyday measures to prevent the spread of all respiratory illnesses and infections, including the flu or COVID-19.”

Ms. Brestel added that those everyday practices should include following social distancing recommendations by maintaining a 6-foot distance from others; staying home if you are sick even with mild symptoms; washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds; not touching your face, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and cleaning commonly used surfaces.

The CDC also now recommends the use of cloth face coverings when in areas where regular social distancing practices cannot as easily be maintained (grocery stores, pharmacies, etc.) to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Face coverings are not a replacement for washing hands, physical distancing while performing essential activities and staying home.

COVID-19 rates have yet to peak in Delaware, which is keeping health care workers busier than ever, even as the flu season begins to wind down.

“Our epidemiology team continues to work on flu surveillance as well as all of the other infectious diseases they typically would be tracking, but obviously the coronavirus response is taking up a lot of our focus,” Ms. Brestel said.

Delaware’s total number of more than 7,000 flu cases this season is second only to the record-setting influenza season of 2017-’18, when the state had 9,050 cases.

The CDC lists the level of influenza activity in Delaware now as sporadic, which it defines as “small numbers of laboratory-confirmed influenza cases or a single laboratory-confirmed i-fluenza outbreak has been reported, but there is no increase in cases of ILI (influenza-like illness).”

Ms. Brestel said the decrease in flu cases might help health care workers in identifing patients who suffer from COVID-19.

“In terms of testing for COVID-19, providers are still recommended to rule out any other respiratory illnesses, but as we move out of flu season, it may become easier to identify an illness as potentially COVID-related rather than influenza,” she said.

“It is important to note that individuals could still get the flu or other respiratory illnesses year-round, which is why medical providers should continue to use their clinical judgement based on presenting symptoms, onset of symptoms, and epidemiological (exposure) risk to determine the best course of action.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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