Record-breaking number of flu cases in Delaware

Reed Olson, 8, gets a flu shot, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The U.S. government's latest flu report released on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, showed flu season continued to intensify the previous week, with high volumes of flu-related patient traffic in 42 states, up from 39 the week before. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

Reed Olson, 8, gets a flu shot, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. The U.S. government's latest flu report released on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018, showed flu season continued to intensify the previous week, with high volumes of flu-related patient traffic in 42 states, up from 39 the week before. (David Goldman/AP Photo)

Nearly 1,000 flu cases were reported in Delaware for the week ending Feb. 3, the highest total in a single week since the state’s been keeping records.

There were 995 lab-confirmed cases of flu reported in Delaware for the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. Six people died of flu-related causes during that time. The total number of flu cases for the 2017-18 season now stands at 2,966, with 10 flu-related deaths.

“This is a very intense flu season,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health. “Our hospitals are reporting higher-than-average census. There are increased numbers of patient admissions as well as increased emergency department wait times.”

The increase in cases this year may be due to ineffectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine. “It does appear that one of the most prevalent viral strains of the season may be not as well protected against from this flu vaccine that’s available this year,” Rattay said. DPH is still waiting for more information on that from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some Delaware hospitals have changed their visitation policies as a result of the widespread number of flu cases. Christiana Care Health System is restricting visitors to those over the age of 16. Christiana is also restricting visitors to the neonatal intensive care unit to parents or grandparents. “Our health systems are doing what they need to do to accommodate those individuals who are ill,” Rattay said.

Restricting children from visiting is designed to reduce the spread of flu because children are the most common transmitters of the infection. “Our health systems — although they are strained at this point — are doing a great job of being able to accommodate and handle the illnesses that they are seeing.”

The best way to prevent spreading the flu, Rattay said, is to avoid contact with healthy people if you are sick. “If you are sick, please do not go to work or go out into the public until you are fever free for 24 hours without fever reducing medication,” Rattay said. She recommends calling your primary care physician first, or visit a walk-in clinic, before going to the emergency room.

It’s not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, and while there have been some reports of dwindling supplies of flu vaccine, Rattay said the state’s supply is in good shape. “Although we aren’t hearing a lot from the ground as far as individuals who are having trouble finding it … we know that we’ve got vaccines in our clinics, so if somebody goes to flu.delaware.gov, they can learn more about the DPH clinics that are providing flu vaccines.”

Rattay said this flu season isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. “The flu is difficult to predict. It’s not possible to say in advance precisely when this flu season will peak, or end, or how severe it will be. However, it is likely there will be significant flu activity for weeks to come.”

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