Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Date: February 23, 2015
Dover (February 23, 2015) - The number of Delaware flu fatalities this season has risen to 23, the Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today. With a total of 2,172 lab-confirmed flu cases to date, Delaware is close to exceeding the highest number of lab-confirmed flu cases in ten years, including in 2009-2010 when H1N1 was common. 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.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with people who lost loved ones," said DHSS Cabinet Secretary Rita Landgraf. "Delaware is seeing a slowing in new lab-confirmed cases, but that does not mean the flu season is over. Sudden increases in new flu cases is not uncommon even after the season seems to be slowing down. Prevention through hand-washing, staying home when sick, and limiting your exposure to anyone with flu symptoms is still very important."
Added DPH Division Director Dr. Karyl Rattay, "This flu season is one of the worst in years and the number of fatalities is extremely troubling. Often when flu becomes widespread, physicians stop ordering lab testing and treat all suspected cases as flu. A slowing down in new lab-confirmed cases does not necessarily mean less flu across the entire community."
One particular flu strain, the Influenza A strain, is causing high rates of illness among seniors and those with underlying conditions. Additionally, 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 two of those who died were over age 65 (the other fatalities were in their early 50s) and all 23 had underlying medical conditions. Eighteen 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.