Flu Fatalities Rise to 19 in Delaware, Locals Express Concern - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Flu Fatalities Rise to 19 in Delaware, Locals Express Concern

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REHOBOTH BEACH, Del.- Delaware health officials confirm 19 people have died as a result of contracting the flu.

The Delaware Division of Public Health said all but one of the flu-related deaths were among seniors over the age of 65.

The department reported 1,826 lab-confirmed cases so far this flu season, which is nearly the total amount for the entire season last year in the First State.

It's a startling fact that has some people in Sussex County on high alert.

Ella Kirlin, a senior and Lewes resident, said she's a little worried about the growing number of flu-related deaths.

"The thought passed by me but I've got my shots and I try to take precautions and so I'm just hoping for the best," said Kirlin.

All 19 victims had underlying medical conditions as well which makes the flu a harder battle to fight, according to health officials.

Seaford resident Kelly Novak said she's doing her best to stave off the illness by drinking plenty of fluids and getting fresh air.

"I think everyone's worried about the flu," said Novak. "As precautions I try to continually drink tea to just plain water."

Seniors are most at risk for contracting the virus but pregnant women, children and those with weakened immune systems are vulnerable as well, according to DPH.

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From earlier:

DOVER, Del. -- After a particularly hard flu season, Delaware's Division of Public Health says the number of deaths from the flu in the First State continues to rise.

DPH says three new deaths were reported this week, bringing the total number of flu fatalities to 19. DPH also says there are 1,826 lab-confirmed cases as of Friday, getting very close to the total for the entire season last year.

It's important to note that the Health Department says all but one of the deceased was over age 65, and all 19 had underlying medical conditions. With these new numbers, 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."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 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, DPH says this season the Influenza A strain is the most common among the fatalities and is also common in the larger community.  DPH says 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.  The Health Department says this same strain has seen the mutation, which has impacted the effectiveness of the vaccine.  

The CDC says initial evidence from this flu season shows the vaccine to be particularly low in protection for the elderly who contract the mutated strain. To help protect seniors and other people who may be particularly vulnerable to the flu, DPH recommends discussing anti-viral medication with your medical provider if flu symptoms begin to appear, making sure the staff at any long-term care facility your elderly loved-one may be in if they are vaccinated, and limiting underage or sick visitors at the facilities. Other recommendations may seem obvious, but DPH also says washing your hands frequently with soap after you cough or sneeze is one of the best ways of making sure you do not get sick. If you do get sick however, DPH recommends staying home and not returning to work or school until 24 hours after a fever is gone.

In addition to seniors, DPH says 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. DPHS says 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.

DPH says fourteen of the recent deaths were in New Castle County, two in Kent and three in Sussex.

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