Delaware announces first flu death

DOVER — A 56-year-old Kent County man has died of the flu, the Delaware Division of Public Health said Wednesday.

The man is the first to die during the 2020-21 flu season. He was infected with influenza B and died last week. He had underlying health conditions, DPH said.

As of Dec. 19, the most recent date for which flu statistics are available, there have been five laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Delaware for the current season. Two cases each were residents of Kent and New Castle counties, and one resident was from Sussex County.

This number reflects only lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher, as not all people with the flu seek treatment, and many cases are diagnosed through rapid test kits in a provider’s office versus a lab.

“This tragedy reminds us that while we are diligently fighting COVID-19, we cannot forget about influenza as it also can be extremely dangerous and deadly, particularly to individuals who already have weakened immune systems,” DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay said in a prepared statement.

In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication as directed, DPH recommends that Delawareans stay home if they have cold or flu-like symptoms, practice social distancing to reduce chances of catching the flu, wear a face covering if one has to go to a doctor’s appointment or pharmacy, wash hands frequently and cover coughs and sneezes.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications, including pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. People with preexisting health conditions, such as diabetes and asthma, are more susceptible to catching the flu.

“We are keeping this person’s family in our thoughts as well as everyone battling illness in this difficult time,” Dr. Rattay said. “We encourage Delawareans to get their flu vaccines if they have not done so already and to make sure everyone in their family gets theirs, too. The vaccine will lessen your likelihood of getting the flu and can lower the severity of your symptoms if you catch it. You should also take antiviral medicines if your primary care provider prescribes them.”

Additionally, 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 less than 100 without the use of fever-reducing medications — for at least 24 hours. They should avoid close contact with others 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 primary care provider 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.

Flu vaccines are still available at many pharmacies and grocery stores and through primary care physicians and some specialists. To find participating stores, enter your ZIP code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s flu vaccine finder at cdc.gov/flu. Flu shots continue to be available at DPH clinics in the Department of Health and Social Services’ State Service Centers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all State Service Centers are requiring appointments for flu vaccines:
• Williams State Service Center, 805 River Road, Dover. For all ages, including children ages 6 months and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 857-5140 to schedule an appointment.
• Milford State Service Center-Riverwalk, 253 N.E. Front St. For ages 9 years and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 424-7130 to schedule an appointment.
• Anna C. Shipley State Service Center, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford. For all ages, including children ages 6 months and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 628-6772 to schedule an appointment.
• Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. For all ages, including children ages 6 months and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 515-3174 to schedule an appointment.
• Porter State Service Center, 509 W. Eighth St., Wilmington. For all ages, including children ages 6 months and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 777-2800 to schedule an appointment.
• Hudson State Service Center, 501 Ogletown Road, Newark. For all ages, including children ages 6 months and older. Mondays through Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Call 283-7570 to schedule an appointment.

For more information about the flu, visit flu.delaware.gov or call DPH at (800) 282-8672.