The Division of Public Health (DPH) is reporting the first flu-related death of the 2017-2018 flu season.
The individual, a 47-year-old male from New Castle County, passed away last week at a local hospital. The man, who was infected with influenza A, was a resident of a long-term care facility and had multiple underlying health conditions.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the gentleman’s family during this difficult time,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “His death is a reminder of how serious the flu can be, especially among vulnerable populations. We often think of the very young and seniors when we think of the vulnerable, but people at any age with underlying health conditions are also at a greater risk of the flu and serious complications stemming from it.”
As of Dec. 2, there are 46 laboratory-confirmed flu cases in Delaware for the 2017-2018 season with 15 requiring hospitalization. For the same time frame last flu season, there were 42 lab-confirmed cases statewide and also 15 hospitalizations.
Concerns have been expressed that the U.S. could see a difficult flu season, because this year’s flu season in Australia — which is typically a good measuring stick for how the season will unfold in the United States — has been particularly harsh, with more cases, hospitalizations and deaths compared with the season last year.
There have also been reports that flu vaccine might be less effective than in the past, although health officials say it is always a good idea to get the vaccine.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) flu experts say that flu is difficult to predict, and it’s still too early in our season to determine when the flu season will peak in the United States, how severe it will be, or what viruses will predominate.
In addition to getting vaccinated the following additional preventive steps are critically important to stopping the spread of flu at home and at the workplace
- At this time of the year, it’s important to keep your distance from others if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers
- Cover sneezes and coughs with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available sneeze or cough into your inner elbow
- Stay home if you are sick until you are fever free for 24 hours – with a temperature of less than 100◦ F (37.8◦ C), without the use of fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours
- If you suspect you have influenza, call your doctor as they may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications
DPH continues to offer the vaccine at five State Service Centers. Information for these sites can be found athttp://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. You can also Google “CDC Flu Finder” and enter your ZIP code. Additionally, the vaccine is available through many medical providers, pharmacies, and some grocery stores.
DPH recommends anyone, 6 months of age and older, who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu, to do so as soon as possible asit takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protects against influenza virus infection. Children 6 months to 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, should get two doses of vaccine.
For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, call DPH at 1-800-282-8672 or visitflu.delaware.gov.