Delaware flu deaths climb to 21

Dr. Karyl Rattay
Dr. Karyl Rattay (Photo: DHSS)

DOVER, DELAWARE (2/7/2015) The death toll from the flu this season has climbed to 21 in Delaware, state officials announced Friday.

Two of the victims were in their 50s, but the rest were all over age 65. Sixteen were in New Castle County, two in Kent and three in Sussex, and all had underlying health conditions contributing to their deaths.

“Flu can make you very ill, very quickly,” cautioned Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health. “One particular flu strain, the Influenza A strain, is especially tough on seniors and those with underlying conditions. We are urging people to call your loved ones or neighbors once a day if they are seniors or have underlying medical conditions. This ‘check-in’ could help catch a potential serious illness early and get them medical care more quickly.”

There are also now 2,041 lab-confirmed cases, which exceeds the total number of cases for any full flu season of the past decade except for the H1N1 outbreak in 2009-2010.

The division offers these tips 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 begin to show symptoms of the flu, contact a medical provider immediately.
  • 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. Even if the amount of protection is reduced in one strain this year, 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.

Tips for protection against illness