Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: February 27, 2015
DOVER (February 26, 2015) - The number of Delaware flu fatalities this season has risen to 26, the Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today. With a total of 2,196 lab-confirmed flu cases to date, Delaware's rate of new lab-confirmed cases continue to drop but the number of fatalities is not slowing down. DPH is urging people to still protect themselves from the flu and check in on friends and loved ones who are elderly or have underlying medical conditions. And, contact a medical provider immediately if anyone begins to show flu symptoms.
"The number of flu-related fatalities keeps growing even as we see a reduction in new lab-confirmed cases," said Delaware Public Health Division Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. "I cannot emphasize enough the importance of prevention like washing hands and staying home when sick. And, we know that over half of the deaths (60 percent) occurred among people living at home. Checking on elderly or medically vulnerable relatives and neighbors is vital. The flu seen this season can cause a life-threatening illness very quickly in vulnerable people. Starting treatment in ill individuals as soon as possible is critically important."
Added Cabinet Secretary Rita Landgraf, Department of Health and Social Services, "The flu strain that happens to be circulating this year is particularly deadly for seniors and people with underlying conditions. This year is almost four times as deadly as 2009-2010, the year that the Swine Flu was circulating."
In addition to Influenza Strain A causing the high rate of illnesses among seniors and those with underlying conditions, the vaccine may be offering unusually low protection this year for seniors. Initial evidence from the CDC shows the 2014-15 flu vaccine's effectiveness is particularly low in protecting the elderly who contract a mutated influenza strain.
DPH advises that 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 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:
All but three of those who died were over age 65 (the other fatalities were in their 50s) and all 26 had underlying medical conditions. Twenty-one 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, 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.