Elevated flu activity is expected for many weeks to come, according to the Division of Public Health.

The Division of Public Health has announced six flu-related deaths have occurred in Delaware in the last week alone, bringing the season’s total to 10.

Of the six individuals who recently passed away, five were from New Castle County and one was from Sussex County. The individuals ranged from age 60 to 93 years old, and all had underlying health conditions.

“It is so important that Delawareans act now to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu,” said DPH director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Given the ongoing severity of the flu season, I cannot stress strongly enough that everyone practice additional preventive measures in addition to getting the flu vaccine.”

Nationally, there have been 4,486 flu-related deaths, with 63 of them being children.

Rattay said it’s likely there will be elevated flu activity for many weeks to come.

The number of flu-related hospitalizations in the state is 513, as of Feb. 3, 2018. That’s more than double the 199 at this time last year.

The weekly total of 995 lab-confirmed flu cases between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 surpassed the highest single-week totals in Delaware reporting history, that dates back to 2008-2009. 

The highest single-week total previously recorded was 671 cases in 2009-2010. The most recent weekly number brings the total flu cases to 2,966 for the 2017-2018 season.

The Division of Public Health said each of us has a critical role to play in preventing the spread of flu to others in your house, workplace and the community. 

Flu prevention tips

· If you are sick, do not go to school or work until you’re fever-free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.

· Wash your hands frequently – and wipe down frequently touched surfaces with soap and water or disinfecting products.

· Cough or sneeze into tissues or into your inner elbow, if tissues aren’t available.

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent flu illness, serious flu complications, and the spread of the flu in the community by offering greater protection to the overall population. 

While some individual medical providers are reporting a shortage of the flu vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates there’s enough available and those who need a shot may need to be persistent and call a few more places to find it. 

Residents are urged to first contact their primary care provider for a shot, or to visit https://vaccinefinder.org. Children ages 9 and older can get their flu shot at local pharmacies.

Additionally, Delawareans can visit flu.delaware.gov/ or call DPH at 1-800-282-8672 for a list of Public Health Clinics within State Service Centers that are providing the vaccine.

Individuals who develop influenza-like-illness symptoms are encouraged to contact their primary care provider (PCP) for treatment recommendations, or visit a walk-in care center if you do not have a PCP, instead of going to the emergency room. 

People who are extremely ill with symptoms such as trouble breathing, bluish skin color, fever with a rash, dizziness or severe or persistent vomiting should seek out immediate medical help. 

Your primary care provider may decide to provide antiviral medications to help speed up recovery and prevent serious complications without an in-office visit.

DPH asks medical providers to begin antiviral treatment for all hospitalized patients and all high-risk patients with suspected influenza.

***Seniors at risk for influenza

Influenza-like illness continues to increase in Delaware and across the nation.

Activity is the highest seen in the last five flu seasons. Additionally, the number of flu-related hospitalizations nationwide is the highest in a decade.

In Delaware, to date, persons age 65 and older comprise 62.6 percent of the hospitalizations. This mirrors the national trend and the CDC is recommending the pneumonia vaccine for those 65 and older as a result.

While flu-related hospitalizations are disproportionately impacting older Delawareans, infants and children have been most heavily affected by the flu in general.

Infants and children ages birth to 4 years old account for 461 of the season’s cases. Combined with children ages 5 to 9 years (445 cases), they make up more than one-quarter of this season’s flu cases.

Children of elementary and middle school ages (5 to 13 years) account for 581 of the season’s cases. Additionally, 167 cases of the flu were confirmed in high school-aged children (ages 14 – 19). 

Flu is difficult to predict. It’s not possible to say in advance precisely when the 2017-2018 flu season will peak or end, or how severe it will be. For more information about flu surveillance in Delaware, read the weekly flu report at dhss.delaware.gov/dph/epi/influenzawkly.html.