The flu has claimed yet another life in Delaware.
But what’s different about Delaware’s 11th flu death this season is that the victim was an otherwise healthy person.
Delaware Division of Public Health officials confirmed to WDEL that a 47-year-old woman from New Castle County died from the flu.
She had been diagnosed with “Strain B” of the virus and did not receive the flu vaccine, according to health records.
Three of the 11 persons who have died have been from Sussex County; the rest are from New Castle County. Victims range in age from 47 to 93.
The 10 other flu deaths in Delaware have been attributed to underlying or chronic health conditions.
DPH Medical Director Dr. Awe Maduka-Ezeh explained how an otherwise healthy person could die from the flu.
“Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It causes severe lung inflammation that disrupts the functioning of the lung tissues. As a result, a person’s body is unable to get sufficient amounts of oxygen into their blood and consequently into their tissues (this is called hypoxia). The hypoxia leads to the release of inflammatory cytokines (the body’s alarm molecules). This, then causes a cascade effect, or series of reactions, that when sufficiently widespread can lead to a generalized inflammatory reaction with shock, and multi-organ system failure that could affect virtually every system in the body,” said Dr. Maduka-Ezeh.
“Our hearts go out to her family, and to the families of the other ten victims who have succumbed to this terrible disease. This most recent flu-related death is a solemn and stark reminder that the flu is unpredictable and can be fatal to individuals who are considered otherwise healthy,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Division of Public Health.
Earlier this week, state health officials stopped short of calling the flu outbreak an “epidemic,” but called it a “very intense” flu season that’s shattering records in the state.
The number of flu cases in Delaware continue to rise with health officials saying laboratory-confirmed cases hit 1,200 just this week–and they cautioned the week is far from over. The previous record was set the week of January 28, 2018, when 995 cases of flu were reported over the seven-day period.
Individuals who believe they may have the flu and suffer from symptoms like fever with cough or a sore throat are urged to contact their primary care provider or a walk-in clinic to determine whether antiviral medications are necessary. Ill individuals are urged to stay home from school or work until they’re fever-free for 24 hours without the aid of medication to prevent further spread of the virus.
Healthy Delawareans are urged to continue frequent handwashing and get the flu vaccine, if they haven’t done so already.
The Hudson State Service Center Public Health Clinic in Newark still has flu vaccine for ages 6 months and older. They’re offering free vaccinations on a walk-in basis between 8:15 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. Appointments are also available. The Porter State Service Center in Wilmington is also offering vaccinations on a first-come first serve basis for those age 12 and older.