Flu is in the air across Delmarva

DOVER — After a quiet winter with only a handful of influenza cases, the spread of the virus has picked up and as of March 5, the Department of Health and Social Services reported a total of 416 lab-confirmed cases across the state.

In the report from just one week earlier, there were only 197 lab-confirmed cases.

Although certain populations are more likely to contract the flu, every age group was reported to have at least double the cases from the week ending on Feb. 27.

And one month before the March 5 report, there had only been 38 lab-confirmed cases since the 2015-2016 flu season began in September.

“This increase is later than usual, but the flu is very unpredictable so there’s no way to say if this is a peak or not,” said Dr. Awe Maduka-Ezeh, medical director for the Division of Public Health.

Centers for Disease and Prevention's weekly map tracks flu reports.

Centers for Disease and Prevention’s weekly map tracks flu reports.

The late peak is a national trend and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t report seeing flu cases increase across the country until February.

Although the number of lab-confirmed cases is expected to increase, Delaware’s 2015-2016 season’s number of flu cases is dwarfed by last season’s grand total of 2,390.

“When it comes to the number of cases reported, you have to remember that it’s the lab-confirmed cases,” Dr. Maduka-Ezeh said. “So it’s just the tip of the iceberg; but the same goes for every other year so it’s usually a good indication of the trend.”

Lab-confirmed cases exclude anyone who had the flu but did not see a doctor and anyone who saw a doctor but was prescribed medication without being tested.

“It’s a good practice for doctors to prescribe medication to those who have flu symptoms because it’s timely. Treatment should start at the onset of symptoms,” she said.

According to the CDC, the majority of individuals who have had a confirmed case of the flu this season hadn’t been vaccinated. Most of those affected have been young to middle-age adults.

The March 5 report stated that 20 percent of cases occurred in those under 4 years of age, 28 percent in those ages 5 to 24, 31 percent in those ages 25 to 49, 13 percent in those ages 50 to 64 and 8 percent in those 65 and older.

The predominant strain this season is Influenza A H1N1pdm09 which was a strain included in this season’s vaccine.

“Although it’s far too early to have confirmation from the CDC, it appears the low number of cases are probably related to this vaccine being a good match to the strains we are seeing,” Dr. Maduka-Ezeh said.

She added that the vaccination isn’t guaranteed to prevent you from getting the flu but it greatly decreases your chances of contracting it if you are exposed and can cause symptoms to remain mild if you do develop the virus.

And it’s never too late to get the vaccine. It takes about two weeks to take full effect, but cases of the flu typically pop up through May.

Vaccinations can be obtained at a physician’s office, a pharmacy or a flu clinic. For upcoming flu clinics in your area, visit dhss.delaware.gov or call the Department of Public Health at 744-4700.

Facebook Comment