Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: January 26, 2015
Dover (January 23, 2015) - The number of Delaware flu fatalities for this flu season is now 19, with three new deaths this week. There are now 1826 lab-confirmed cases to date which is almost the total for the entire season last year. All but one of the deceased is over age 65 (the other fatality was age 53) and all 19 had underlying medical conditions. The Division of Public Health (DPH) is urging seniors and their caretakers to be particularly cautious this flu season, including asking their medical provider about anti-viral medication if they become ill.
"This remains a particularly hard flu year on the elderly and people with underlying conditions," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Division Director. "DPH and its medical and community partners are working hard to spread the word about prevention being the best protection. The combination of a particularly tough strain of flu, which has also seen an unexpected mutation from the formula in the vaccine, means that taking all precautions against the flu is vital."
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Each year a few strains of the flu will circulate. While there are multiple flu strains circulating now, this season the Influenza A strain is the most common among the fatalities and is also common in the larger community. Past experience indicates that when this particular strain is more common, there have been more hospitalizations and deaths, especially among those at highest risk of complications from flu infection. This same strain has seen the mutation, which has impacted the effectiveness of the vaccine. CDC initial evidence from this flu season shows the vaccine to be particularly low in protection for the elderly who contract the mutated strain.
To protect seniors and vulnerable populations DPH recommends:
In addition to seniors, others who are most vulnerable are 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. These precautions should be applied to these groups as well. And, if anyone in this group begins to show symptoms of the flu, contact a medical provider immediately.
Fourteen of the recent 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.