Flu-related deaths in Delaware continue to rise, according the Division of Public Health.
The agency reports 11 Delawareans have died from the flu this season—almost double that of last flu season, during which there were six fatalities.
And even though flu season is winding down, more flu deaths could be reported, DPH warns.
“We’re always concerned regarding flu season, because we know it causes significant morbidity, meaning illness in the community, and as we know even mortality,” said DPH epidemiologist Paula Eggers.
“It’s an unpredictable disease, and can impact people differently from one season to the next.”
Two elderly women died during the second week of March—an 83-year-old from New Castle County infected with Influenza B and a 77-year-old from Kent County infected with Influenza A.
The following week, a 76-year-old Sussex County woman, also infected with Influenza A, died.
The three women had underlying health conditions, according to the DPH.
The number of individuals diagnosed with the flu this season is the highest in more than a decade, with 3,366 cases as of March 18th—1,115 more cases than last season. Those cases are only the ones that have been reported. Influenza A, which is more coarse than other strains, is predominant this season.
New Castle County is home to 49 percent of flu diagnosed individuals this season. Neighboring states also are seeing a spike in flu cases, Eggers said.
She said some of the increase could be linked to changes in lab methods causing increased reporting.
This year’s flu related deaths, while high, are still much lower than the 2014 to 2015 season, during which 28 Delawareans died. However, DPH still encourages residents to take measures to prevent the spread of the flu.
The agency urges individuals experiencing flu-like symptoms like fever, nausea, cough and body aches, especially those with underlying health problems, to immediately call their doctor, who can provide a prescription over the phone.
“It’s always very concerning. We know flu is unpredictable, and we know it can be deadly. That’s why we believe strongly it’s important to encourage those preventative measures,” Eggers said.
“It’s very important for people to recognize the symptoms of the flu, especially the very young, the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions, those are the ones who should consult their physician immediately if they begin to have symptoms of flu”
The agency encourages individuals to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, covering coughs and sneezes and staying home while sick to prevent the spread of the flu.
DPH also asks Delawareans to regularly check on elderly neighbors or relatives.
“Recognize the illness, practice those things we can do all day every day. Stay home when you’re sick and keep your children home from school or daycare when they’re sick,” Eggers said. “These things go a long way to stop the spread of respiratory and other illnesses.”
For more information on influenza prevention, diagnosis and treatment, call DPH at 800-282-8672 or visit flu.delaware.gov.
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.