Delaware Health Dept. watching for new flu strains

Two new swine-related strains of influenza have the potential to emerge in Delaware for this year’s flu season.  

The new sub-strain known as H3N2 hasn’t been seen yet in Delaware, but Delaware’s Division of Public Health is on the lookout for potential cases popping up in the First State.  So far, 11 people nationwide have been identified with H3N2, including three people in Pennsylvania.  While no deaths have been connected to the new strain, it has been linked to severe illness and hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that this year’s flu vaccine might not be effective in protecting against H3N2 or H1N2 influenza subtypes.  That means even getting this year’s vaccine may not make you immune to the strain.  But, the H3N2 strain is similar to viruses that circulated around the country during the 1990’s.  That means older individuals who may have been exposed to the strain more than a decade ago may be immune, but children in elementary school or younger may be vulnerable.

The CDC has confirmed that antiviral medications Tamiflu and Relenza can be used to treat both H3N2 and H1N2.  The Division of Public Health is warning doctors and hospitals to be looking for the new strains, especially for outbreaks of flu-like illness among children in daycare or school settings.  

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The only confirmed case of influenza in Delaware this season was in an 11-year-old boy from Wilmington.  He was diagnosed with the typical A/H3 strain.  There have been no reports of either sub-strain in Delaware so far for the 2011-2012 flu season.

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