Del. Flu Cases Surpass Record 2009-2010 H1N1 "Swine Flu" Year - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Del. Flu Cases Surpass Record 2009-2010 H1N1 "Swine Flu" Year

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DOVER, Del.- With a total of 2,309 lab-confirmed flu cases to date, Delaware's flu year now has surpassed the number of lab-confirmed cases for the 2009-2010 H1N1 outbreak (then referred to as the “swine flu”).  

The Delaware Department of Health and Social Services says the total number of lab-confirmed cases for that year was 2,247.  This flu year already had seen record-breaking fatality numbers with total of 28 dead. That is four times the most recent high of seven fatalities during the 2009-2010 H1N1 year.

Edward Hendricks is a family nurse practitioner for Nanticoke Immediate care center. He says a lot of people have visited the centers with flu-like symptoms this season.

"We actually do a test for flu A and B. We can actually tell them right away, within about 15 minutes whether or not they have the flu," said Hendricks. "If not, then we send it out to a laboratory at the hospital."

Earlier this season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the vaccine offers limited protection for the most prevalent strain. 

"We've seen a lot of cases," said Hendricks. "Within the last month or so, we've seen more of Influenza B than Influenza A, but we're still seeing a lot." 

The elderly and young children are more at-risk when it comes to flu fatalities. 

"If you're in that at risk group, stay away from the flu if you can," said Hendricks. 

“Flu is a highly unpredictable disease and very easy to take for granted since it is constantly with us,” said Delaware Public Health Division Director Dr. Karyl Rattay.  “No one could have predicted this year would be so deadly or include so many cases.  Flu's annual presence and unpredictability is what makes precautions and prevention efforts every year so important.” 

Added Cabinet Secretary Rita Landgraf, Department of Health and Social Services, "As the flu year seems to be winding down, it is still important for people to remember prevention.  Wash your hands constantly, stay home when ill, and contact your medical provider if you begin to show symptoms, particularly if you are elderly or have underlying health conditions.”

DPH is still advising 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:

  • If you are receiving treatment in a long-term care facility or in-home care, ask if the staff is vaccinated against the flu and, if not, the staff person should wear a mask at all times.
  • Visits at home or in a facility should be limited if the visitor is under age 16, or has the flu or is at risk of exposure to the flu. The illness can be transmitted prior to someone showing symptoms.
  • If you are living with a senior and a family member contracts the flu, keep the two separate as much as possible and ensure everyone in the home follows sanitary precautions.
  • Wash hands frequently with soap 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 or school until 24 hours after a fever is gone.
Ensure all your loved ones are vaccinated against the illness. While this year's vaccine may offer limited protection against one of the flu strains, it does protect well against the other 2-3 strains of flu. In addition the vaccination can help make the illness milder and prevent the illnesses due to the other strains circulating in the community. Vaccines are available from DPH clinics, physicians, pharmacies, and many grocery stores.

All but four of those who died from flu this year were over age 65 (the other fatalities were in their 50s) and all 28 had underlying medical conditions. Twenty-two of the deaths were in New Castle County, three in Kent and three in Sussex. In previous years, the total flu deaths for the season were:

  • 2009-10: 7
  • 2010-11: 5
  • 2011-12: 0
  • 2012-13: 4
  • 2013-14: 6

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.

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