DPH Emphasizes Importance of Flu Anti-Virals - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

DPH Emphasizes Importance of Flu Anti-Virals

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DOVER, Del.– As the number of lab-confirmed flu cases spikes in Delaware,  Dr. Karyl Rattay, Delaware Public Health Division Director, addressed this year's flu epidemic today.

Dr. Rattay said in a statement that to date, Delaware has 1,340 lab-confirmed cases and 11 deaths this flu season, numbers much higher than previous years. According to Dr. Rattay, the youth demographic is being hit particularly hard, with almost half of the lab-confirmed cases being under the age of 24, as well as the elderly, with all but one of the fatalities being persons over the age of 70.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families who have lost someone due to influenza," said Dr. Rattay in a statement.

Dr. Rattay also addressed what type of flu is most prevalent this season. "DPH has reported influenza A (H3N2) viruses most frequently compared to other strains," said Dr. Rattay. "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."

According to Dr. Rattay, the Department of Public Health has five recommendations: get the flu vaccine, wash hands with soap frequently, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately, stay home when sick and do not return to school or work until 24 hours after a fever is gone, and use anti-virals.

In a statement from Dr. Rattay, health officials emphasized the importance of anti-virals, like Tamiflu and Relenza. Dr. Rattay says according to national CDC data, individuals especially in need of anti-virals are any patient with suspected or confirmed influenza who:

  • Is hospitalized – treatment is recommended for all hospitalized patients
  • Has severe, complicated, or progressive illness – this may include outpatients with severe or prolonged progressive symptoms or who develop complications such as pneumonia
  • Is at higher risk for influenza complications (hospitalized or outpatient) – patients in this group include: Children younger than age 5 (especially those younger than age 2);Adults aged 65 years and older; Persons with chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except hypertension alone), renal, hepatic, hematological (including sickle cell disease), and metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus), or neurologic and neurodevelopment conditions (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy [seizure disorders], stroke, intellectual disability [mental retardation], moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury);
  • Persons with immunosuppression, including that caused by medications or by HIV infection; Women who are pregnant or postpartum (within 2 weeks after delivery);
  • Persons aged younger than 19 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy;
  • American Indians/Alaska Natives;
  • Persons who are morbidly obese (i.e., body-mass index is equal to or greater than 40); and Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities.
In a statement, Dr. Rattay said, "We want to emphasize to the community and medical providers that people fitting the above high risk categories be treated with anti-virals as quickly as possible—ideally within 48 hours of symptoms appearing."

Dr. Rattay added, along with the list above, anti-virals may also be considered in other cases as determined by the physician. Dr. Rattay said, "This is clearly a flu year where aggressive treatment is advised."

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

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