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Sussex spike fuels record flu cases

Delaware records highest weekly number
February 14, 2018

Delaware recorded its highest number of weekly flu cases ever for the week ending Feb. 3, propelled by a nearly 35 percent increase in Sussex County.

However, officials remain cautious in calling it a pandemic or public health emergency.

“At this point, this is a very intense flu season,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the division of public health. “Health systems are accommodating those who are ill.”

On Feb. 12, Rattay said the most recent data show there were 995 lab-confirmed flu cases for the week of Jan. 28 to Feb. 3. The previous high was 671, recorded during the 2009-10 flu season. For this year's flu season, she said, the total is 2,966 cases.

Sussex County recorded 408 cases – 41 percent of the state total. Both New Castle and Kent County numbers declined by about a third.

Rattay said there were six new deaths reported, with one from Sussex County and five from New Castle County – four men and two women between the ages of 60 and 93. This brings the year's total to 10; all who died had underlying health conditions, Rattay said.

Rattay said officials are unsure when the flu season will peak or end. “We predict activity for many weeks to come,” she said.

Rattay said health systems are strained, but she does not see a need for a public health emergency. She said public health officials will continue to meet with hospitals and healthcare providers to ensure their needs are met.

She said schools are reporting a large number of absences, but she was unclear whether those are flu-related or a result of different viruses that are circulating. “There is no reason for any schools to close,” she said.

Rattay said officials continue to recommend flu shots, even though some providers have reported they are out of the vaccine. Vaccines can be found at http://flu.delaware.gov or https://vaccinefinder.org.

Preventative measures such as frequent hand washing, wiping down common areas and sneezing or coughing into the inner elbow should be practiced, she said.

Most of all, Rattay said, stay home and away from others if flu symptoms develop.

“If you are sick do not go to work or into the public,” Rattay said.