Prevention Is Key To Stopping Flu Deaths in Delaware - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Prevention Is Key To Stopping Flu Deaths in Delaware

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Dover (January 8, 2015) - The number of Delaware lab-confirmed flu cases is now 1004 compared to 107 cases at this same time last year; including five new deaths to bring the total to nine deaths to date for this flu season. Eight of the deaths were in persons over age 70, and the ninth death was a person in their 50s.  


All of the deaths were persons with underlying conditions.  Six deaths were in New Castle County, one in Kent and two in Sussex County.  There were no flu deaths by this time in flu seasons 2014, 2013 and 2012.

The Delaware Division of Public Health reminds Delawareans that preventing the flu through vaccination and sanitary precautions is still the best protection.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost someone due to influenza,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH Division Director.  “Delaware is experiencing substantially more cases and deaths overall than recent years.  Simple things like washing hands, staying home when sick, and vaccination can reduce the impact of the flu.  DPH also reminds people to be especially careful about accidental exposure to particularly vulnerable people.”

Most vulnerable are older people, 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.  

Each year a few strains of the flu will circulate. So far this season, DPH has reported influenza A (H3N2) viruses most frequently compared to other strains. 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

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against three or four different strains of the disease depending upon the type of vaccine. The CDC reports that Influenza A H3N2 that is among those causing illness in the community is slightly different (mutated) from the original vaccine. However, vaccination is still a vital weapon even when there is not an exact match between the vaccine and the strain that infects someone.  The flu shot will not only prevent the flu, but it can also lessen the severity of the illness if someone contracts the virus.

Most people recover from the flu through rest at home and drinking plenty of fluids. Check with your doctor or visit a medical aid unit or walk-in clinic if you are concerned about your symptoms. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your flu illness. Antivirals are a second line defense to treat the flu if you get sick. It can lessen the symptoms, shorten the time you are sick, and prevent complications. However, a flu vaccine is still the first and best way to prevent the flu.

Delawareans are encouraged to prevent flu infection by taking the following measures:

Get the flu vaccine. Anyone age six months and older should get vaccinated for the flu. It is particularly important that anyone who works or lives with children, persons with underlying medical conditions, or seniors, get vaccinated. Vaccinations are offered through physician offices, and many pharmacies and grocery stores.

Wash hands with soap frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after you cough, sneeze or touch your face.

Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet.

Stay home when sick and do not return to work until 24 hours after a fever is gone.

DPH has received data that indicates hospital emergency rooms (ER) are extremely busy, and asks Delawareans to carefully consider before deciding to visit the ER. Wait times may be very long, and unless someone is in a high-risk group or has the below symptoms, your primary care physician, a walk-in clinic or medical aid unit are good options if you have flu symptoms and need medical attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following signs suggest severe illness from flu requiring immediate attention and possible hospitalization:

In children

Fast breathing or trouble breathing

Bluish skin color

Not drinking enough fluids

Not waking up or not interacting

Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Fever with a rash

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

Inability to eat

Trouble breathing

No tears when crying

Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

In adults

Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

Sudden dizziness

Confusion

Severe or persistent vomiting

Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

Some groups are at special risk for complications and individuals in these groups should seek care immediately if they develop symptoms of the flu. These include:

Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old

Adults 65 years of age and older

Pregnant women and women who recently gave birth

People with underlying medical conditions

Individuals who do not have these symptoms should consider contacting their primary care physician or visit a walk-in clinic or medical aid unit if they decide they need medical care.

For further information on the flu, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672.

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