Delaware health officials reported this week the first flu-related death of the 2020-2021 season.
The individual was a 56-year-old Kent county male infected with influenza B, who also had underlying health conditions.
As of Dec. 19, 2020, the most recent date for which flu statistics are available, there have been five laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in Delaware for the current season. Two cases each are to residents of Kent and New Castle counties, and one resident is from Sussex County. This number reflects only the number of lab-confirmed cases; the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher as not all people with the flu seek treatment, and many cases are diagnosed through rapid test kits in a provider’s office versus a lab.
“This tragedy reminds us that while we are diligently fighting COVID-19, we cannot forget about influenza as it also can be extremely dangerous and deadly, particularly to individuals who already have weakened immune systems,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “We are keeping this person’s family in our thoughts as well as everyone battling illness in this difficult time. We encourage Delawareans to get their flu vaccines if they have not done so already and to make sure everyone in their family gets theirs, too. The vaccine will lessen your likelihood of getting the flu and can lower the severity of your symptoms if you catch it. You should also take antiviral medicines if your primary care provider prescribes them.”
In addition to getting a flu vaccine and taking antiviral medication as directed, DPH recommends that you:
- Stay home if you have cold or flu-like symptoms.
- Practice social distancing to reduce your chance of catching the flu from someone else.
- Wear a face covering if you have to go out in public to a doctor’s appointment or pharmacy.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately; if no tissue is available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow.
Additionally, those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school, and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever – with a temperature less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C) without the use of fever-reducing medications – for at least 24 hours. They should avoid close contact with well people in the household and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but if you suspect you have influenza, call your primary care provider as he or she may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. People with pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes and asthma are more susceptible to catching the flu.
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