Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: February 6, 2015
Dover (February 6, 2015) - The Delaware Division of Public Health announced today another flu fatality, bringing the total to 21 so far this season. This is the largest number of flu fatalities in recent memory. There are also now 2,041 lab-confirmed cases, which exceeds the total number of cases for any full flu season of the past decade except for the H1N1 outbreak in 2009-2010. All but two of the deceased are over age 65 (the other fatalities were in their early 50s) and all 21 had underlying medical conditions. The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) urges people to check-in daily with their loved ones and neighbors if they are seniors or have medical conditions. Over half of the flu deaths were in people who lived at home and likely received medical care too late.
"Flu can make you very ill, very quickly," cautioned Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Director. "One particular flu strain, the Influenza A strain, is especially tough on seniors and those with underlying conditions. We are urging people to call your loved ones or neighbors once a day if they are seniors or have underlying medical conditions. This 'check-in' could help catch a potential serious illness early and get them medical care more quickly."
Each year, multiple flu strains will circulate. This flu season, a mutated strain has impacted the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. CDC initial evidence shows the 2014-15 flu vaccine's effectiveness is particularly low in protecting the elderly who contract the mutated strain.
Persons with emerging flu symptoms should call - not visit - their medical providers, who may be able to prescribe anti-viral medication. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue.
DPH also recommends these actions to protect seniors and vulnerable populations, including the very young, pregnant women, and those who recently gave birth, and people with underlying medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and individuals with weak immune systems:
Sixteen of the deaths were in New Castle County, two in Kent and three in Sussex. In previous years, the total flu deaths for the season were:
For further information on the flu and DPH flu clinics, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672. A fact sheet on protecting the elderly and vulnerable populations is available at http://www.dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/files/fluprotectingelderlyandvulnerable.pdf
A person who is deaf, hard-of-hearing, deaf-blind, or speech-disabled can call the DPH phone number above by using TTY services. Dial 7-1-1 or 800-232-5460 to type your conversation to a relay operator, who reads your conversation to a hearing person at DPH. The relay operator types the hearing person's spoken words back to the TTY user. To learn more about TTY availability in Delaware, visit delawarerelay.com.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, drink almost no sugary beverages.
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.