While the “official” start of flu season is still two weeks away, the Division of Public Health (DPH) is urging residents not to wait to get vaccinated. Four cases of the flu now have been confirmed, and with at least one case in each county, flu is now statewide in Delaware. In addition to the two cases of influenza announced last week, one in a Sussex County woman and one in a New Castle County woman, a 40-year-old Kent County woman has since been diagnosed with Influenza Strain B. None of the women were hospitalized, but DPH is now confirming its first flu-related hospitalization in a 38-year-old New Castle County man.
“We are asking residents not to put off getting their flu vaccine,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “With flu activity already occurring statewide before the ‘official’ start of the flu season, which is September 30, we are feeling a sense of urgency to make sure people are making plans and appointments to get their flu shot sooner rather than later. It is not too early.”
The flu vaccine is recommended for Delawareans 6 months of age and older. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, it is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to give your body time to build immunity. Getting the flu vaccine now also will provide protection during the entire flu season. Flu vaccines are offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and some grocery stores. While not all physician offices may have their vaccine supply in yet, you can still locate where flu vaccines near you are being offered. Just Google “CDC flu finder” and enter a ZIP code.
DPH will also offer various other flu clinics throughout the season. A schedule can be found at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. The agency also has the following free community flu clinics scheduled to take place rain or shine:
Friday, Oct. 5, DPH, outside of the Porter State Service Center, 511 W. 8th St., Wilmington, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The first 200 people to get their flu vaccines will receive a free gift card.
Tuesday, Oct. 9, DPH will hold a drive-thru flu clinic at the DelDOT Administration Building, 800 S. Bay Road, Dover, from 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. or until vaccines run out.
During the 2017-2018 flu season, Delaware recorded 9,043 flu cases (including the four cases mentioned above), the highest number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases since record-keeping began in 2005, and 35 flu-related deaths. Last season’s first flu cases were not confirmed until late October.
The flu is easy to transmit and you can get it even from seemingly healthy, but unvaccinated, children and adults. Vaccinations not only prevent people from getting the flu, but they can also reduce the severity of flu illness and prevent visits to the doctor, clinic, emergency room, along with hospitalizations and serious consequences (including death) from influenza. Vaccinated people have less chance of missing family, school and work events due to influenza illness.
In addition to getting an annual flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illness with good hygiene: Wash 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 a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.
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. 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 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 doctor as they 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. For more information about the flu and where to get vaccinated, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 1-800-282-8672.
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 http://delawarerelay.com
Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware’s citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.
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