DPH Confirms Flu-Related Deaths During 2023-2024 Flu Season, Urges Public to Get Vaccinated

by Pat Haley

DOVER, DE (Jan. 30, 2024) – The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) announced today six (6) suspected flu-related deaths for the 2023-2024 influenza season.

The first recorded death of the season was in December. All decedents were over the age of 55 with one reportedly up to date on their flu vaccination. Three of the decedents were New Castle County residents, two were Sussex County residents and one was a Kent County resident.

Getting the annual flu vaccine is important for all people ages 6 months and older to prevent serious illness, hospitalization and death that can result from the flu virus. Hospitalization and death from the flu can occur in previously healthy individuals, though persons with underlying health conditions are at significantly increased risk for serious outcomes.

“The recent surge in flu-related deaths is a stark reminder of the severe impact this seasonal illness can have on public health,” said DPH Medical Director Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh. “It is crucial for people of all ages to receive their annual flu shot, as the vaccine is the most effective way to protect against the flu and its potentially life-threatening consequences. Flu-related deaths are preventable, and by working together and taking proactive measures, we can minimize the impact of influenza.”

According to the Influenza Dashboard on My Healthy Community (https://myhealthycommunity.dhss.delaware.gov/portals/flu/locations/state/seasons/2023-2024/overview), a total of 3,594 total flu cases have been reported through January 20, 2024. The flu season began October 1, 2023. For the week of Dec. 24 – Dec. 30, 2023, the most recent week for which case data is available, there were 690 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu reported. Although there have been 297,897 flu vaccine doses administered from Oct. 1 to Jan. 20., it only accounts for 30.3% of the population.

Seniors ages 65 and older have the highest vaccination rate of any age group in Delaware with 65.1% vaccinated. This population makes up 41.4% of the state’s total vaccinated population. Every other age group has a vaccination rate of under 30% with persons in the 18-34 age demographic having the lowest at 13.4%.

The influenza data dashboard is updated weekly on Thursdays at the state and county level, and monthly for other geographies. As of Jan. 24, the most recently available data for flu hospitalizations, there have been 110 hospitalizations for the season to date.

DPH reminds the public it is not too late to get vaccinated against the flu. Visit flu.delaware.gov and click on the Find A Flu Shot Near You button on the webpage for a list of locations where you can receive your flu shot.

If you get sick with flu, influenza antiviral drugs may be a treatment option your primary health care provider recommends. Antiviral drugs work best when started early, such as one to two days after your flu symptoms begin. When treatment is started within 1-2 days after flu symptoms begin, influenza antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days.

Delawareans are encouraged to take the following preventive actions to reduce the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses:

  • Get vaccinated now. Make sure you are up-to-date on your flu, COVID-19 and RSV vaccines, if eligible. You can get more than one vaccination in the same visit.
  • Stay home if sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Test for COVID-19 if sick, and if that’s negative, consider calling your doctor to see if you should be tested for flu. If you are diagnosed with the flu, your doctor may be able to prescribe antivirals to ease your symptoms.

For additional information call 1-800-282-8672 or visit flu.delaware.gov. The best source of information about the flu vaccine is your primary care provider or a health care professional.

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