State launches Fight Flu DE campaign

DOVER — The Delaware Division of Public Health is partnering with health care, faith-based and community partners to launch an aggressive communications campaign to mobilize all Delawareans to get their flu vaccinations called “Fight Flu DE.”

While DPH has always been proactive in encouraging flu vaccinations, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a greater urgency for Delawareans to get vaccinated against influenza, officials said.

“This year it is more important than ever to get your flu vaccine, as we are dealing with uncertainties around how flu season will look this year with COVID-19 circulating at the same time,” said Gov. John Carney who received his flu shot at Delaware’s weekly COVID-19 briefing Tuesday. “While the flu vaccine will not prevent you from getting COVID, it has many important benefits. It will reduce your chance of getting the flu and flu-related complications, while saving critical health care resources to treat COVID patients.”

The “Big 4 locations” to receive flu vaccines this year include medical provider offices or community health clinics, pharmacies, community flu clinics and DPH clinics for uninsured and underinsured individuals.

This week, DPH will hold three community flu clinics, two on Friday – one at the Gigante grocery store on Front Street in Milford from 3 to 6 p.m. and one at the New Castle Farmer’s Market on U.S. 13 in New Castle from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. DPH will hold a second clinic at the New Castle Farmer’s Market location on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., while Westside Family Healthcare will hold a free community flu clinic at its Bear facility in the Fox Run Shopping Center from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday.

Beebe Healthcare is holding the following community flu clinics:

• Thursday, 1–5 p.m., Rehoboth Convention Center, 229 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach (walk-up and bike only)

• Friday, Noon – 5 p.m., Crossroads Church, 20684 State Forest Road, Georgetown (drive-through only)

• Saturday, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., Beebe South Coastal, 32750 Roxana Road, Frankford (drive-through only)

A list of community and DPH flu clinic sites can be found on flu.delaware.gov. In addition, the locations for flu vaccines can be found by searching “CDC flu finder” on Google and enter a ZIP code.

The flu vaccine has been shown to reduce the risk of flu illness, hospitalization and death by about half.

“Getting a flu vaccine is one of the most important things that every Delawarean, 6 months and older, can do to protect themselves from flu illness,” said Molly Magarik, secretary for the Department of Health and Social Services. “It is critically important that persons over age 65 and those with underlying medical conditions of any kind get the vaccine as soon as possible.”

Pregnant women, children under age 2 and African Americans and Hispanics who are more often impacted by chronic diseases such as lung and heart disease, obesity and asthma are also at greater risk of flu illness.

It takes about two weeks after receiving the flu vaccine for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, so 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.

“It will also be vitally important that Delawareans step up their efforts around wearing face coverings, social distancing and washing or sanitizing their hands frequently, not only to protect against COVID-19, but also against flu in the coming months,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “It’s too early to know what impact these preventive measures may already be having in reducing the early spread of flu in our state, but it’s possible they may be the key to a milder flu season this year — but only if we stay vigilant in our efforts.”

In addition to these basic prevention measures, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately, the DPH said. 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.

Some signs and symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar including fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms. Testing can help you determine which you have.

COVID-19 symptoms that are different from flu may include change in or loss of taste or smell, according to the DPH. Also, flu symptoms generally come on more suddenly than COVID symptoms.