With a recent increase in flu cases and hospitalizations in Delaware and nationwide, Delaware's Division of Public Health (DPH) reminds Delawareans that everyone older than 6 months who is not yet vaccinated against the flu should do so immediately. While there have been no flu deaths so far in Delaware during the 2012-2013 flu season, the state's influenza activity is now considered widespread and is higher than at this time in recent years. Young children seem to be especially impacted, with those ages 4 and under comprising 21 percent of cases.
For the week ending Dec. 29, DPH reported 132 confirmed cases of influenza, bringing the state's total for the 2012-2013 season to 441 confirmed cases. Delaware experienced a surge in hospitalizations that week (45 compared to 14 the previous week) for a total of 85 influenza-related hospitalizations as of Dec. 29. Forty percent of these hospitalizations were among adults age 65 and older.
These trends are part of a national increase in flu activity. Widespread flu activity is reported in 41 states. According to the CDC, 2,257 lab-confirmed flu hospitalizations have been reported since Oct. 1, 2012.
"Flu often peaks in late February or early March, but this year we are seeing an early surge," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. "It is not too late to get vaccinated and protect yourself and your family. This year's flu vaccine is especially well matched to the strains of the flu in Delaware and there is vaccine available."
Delawareans are also encouraged to prevent infection by taking the following measures:
- Wash hands with soap frequently or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially after you cough, sneeze or touch you face.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your sleeve. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet.
- Stay home when sick and do not return to school or work until 24 hours after a fever.
Residents who are not yet vaccinated are encouraged to contact their health care provider about getting vaccinated. Vaccinations are offered through physician offices, and many pharmacies and grocery stores. DPH is also expanding vaccination opportunities at public health clinics. If you need information on the flu or where to get vaccinated visit www.flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672. To find out if your family qualifies for free flu vaccinations, please call 800-282-8672.