Flu deaths increasing in Delaware

DOVER — The number of flu-related deaths has continued to increase although the overall number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Delaware this flu season remains lower than the total number of cases reported at the same time last year.

The Division of Public Health (DPH) had confirmed 3,264 flu cases in Delaware during the 2018-’19 season as of Feb. 16, the most recent date for which data is available, down significantly from the 2017-’18 season when there were 5,758 confirmed flu cases reported by that time last year.

However, DPH has been notified of 16 flu-related deaths so far this season, currently making it the third-highest season for flu-related fatalities in the last decade. There were 35 flu-related deaths reported during the 2017-’18 season and 28 during the 2014-’15 season.

The most recent death, which occurred this week, involved a 90-year-old Sussex County man who was infected with Influenza A and had multiple underlying health conditions.

All 16 of the individuals who passed away this flu season were infected with influenza A and all had underlying health conditions or suspected health complications.

The individuals have ranged in age from 41 to 90 years old. Four were New Castle County residents, six were Kent County residents and six were Sussex County residents. Nine of the individuals were women and seven were men.

“We express our condolences to the family and friends of those who have passed away due to flu complications,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “The high number of flu deaths in Delaware is a somber reminder of how serious the flu can be and that we must take all precautions to protect ourselves and our community from this terrible disease.

“The flu is expected to continue circulating for several more weeks, therefore, we strongly encourage everyone to continue practicing important preventive measures to fight the flu, including getting a flu vaccine if you have not yet done so.”

While it may seem late in the flu season to some, flu germs can spread well into the summer months. The flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to take full effect, so anyone who has not yet received the vaccine should make an effort to get one as soon as possible.

The risk for flu-related deaths is greatly increased in the very young, older individuals, and those of any age who have underlying health conditions.

DPH continues to remind the public that there are steps they can take to prevent the spread of the flu. It is important for older individuals with underlying health conditions not only to be vaccinated, but also to limit contact with anyone who may be sick with influenza and to contact their health care provider as soon as they become ill.

Also, family, friends, and caregivers of older individuals with underlying health conditions should be vaccinated and arrange for alternative care, if possible, if they become sick with influenza.

In addition, DPH encourages Delawareans to take everyday steps to prevent the spread of the flu:

• Practice social distancing if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.

• Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

• Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available, sneeze or cough into your inner elbow.

• Take medications as prescribed.


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