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First flu-related deaths of 2019-20

Delaware News Desk
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

The Division of Public Health announces the first two flu-related deaths of 2019-20.

A 68-year-old woman infected with influenza A and a 65-year-old man infected with influenza B died as a result of complications from the flu. Both individuals were Sussex County residents and both had underlying health conditions.

DPH is reminding Delawareans to protect themselves and those around them this influenza season by getting vaccinated.

As of Dec. 28, 2019, the most recent date for which flu statistics are available, there have been 1,083 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Delaware. This number reflects only the number of 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. In addition, 65 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms since the start of the flu season. During the week of Dec. 22-28, 2019, there were 470 new lab-confirmed cases, the highest increase in a single week since the start of the flu season Oct. 1, 2019. During the same time last year, there was a total of 681 lab-confirmed cases of flu statewide, including 140 hospitalizations.

“The deaths of these two Delawareans is a tragic reminder of how dangerous the flu can be, particularly to individuals who already have weakened immune systems,” said DPH Director Karyl Rattay. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of the deceased, as well as those still battling the flu. We continue to encourage Delawareans to get their flu vaccines and make sure everyone in their family gets theirs, too. The vaccine will lower your likelihood of getting the flu and can lessen the severity of your symptoms if you do catch it. You should also be sure to take any antiviral medicines that your primary care provider prescribes.”

In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication as directed, DPH recommends Delawareans practice social distancing by keeping their distance from well people if they have cold or flu-like symptoms; wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers; cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately or, if no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into the inner elbow.

Social distancing means 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 degrees fahrenheit, or 37.8 degrees celsius, without the use of fever-reducing medications — for at least 24 hours. They should avoid close contact with well people 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 those who suspect they have influenza should call their primary care provider, who 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 symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. People with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and asthma are more susceptible to catching the flu.

Flu vaccines are still available at many pharmacies and grocery stores, and through primary care physicians and some specialists. To find participating stores, enter a ZIP code in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s flu vaccine finder, cdc.gov/flu. Flu shots are available at DPH clinics located within the Department of Health and Social Services’ State Service Centers:

— Porter State Service Center, 509 W. Eighth St., Wilmington. For all ages 9 and older. Walk-ins are welcome from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

— Hudson State Service Center, 501 Ogletown Road, Newark. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 283-7587 and select option two to make an appointment Mondays through Fridays.

— Williams State Service Center, 805 River Road, Dover. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Call 857-5140 to make an appointment from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

— Milford State Service Center, Riverwalk, 253 N.E. Front St., Milford. For ages 9 years and older. Mondays and Fridays. Walk-ins are accepted from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Mondays. By appointment only from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Call 424-7130 to make an appointment.

— Anna C. Shipley State Service Center, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

— Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. For all ages, including children age 6 months and older. Walk-ins welcome from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Mondays only.

For more, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672.