A 5-year old from Kent County has become Delaware’s first laboratory-confirmed case of influenza for the 2020-2021 flu season.
The announcement comes far later in the flu season than normal. Cases usually start being identified in October, sometimes September on particularly bad years.
The diagnosis may mean there already are more cases spreading in the community, because only a tiny fraction of flu cases are laboratory tested. Most doctors and institutions follow a “quack likes a duck” protocol, which says if all the symptoms are there, there’s no reason to do official testing, especially when flu is widespread.
The confirmation has resulted in another round of calls for people to get the flu vaccine shot this year, to help guard against hospitals filling up with flu and COVID-19 cases and overwhelming the system.
“This means more health care supplies, resources and professionals will be available on the front lines to fight the pandemic,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the Delaware Division of Public Health in a press release. “By eliminating the need to visit your provider’s office or be hospitalized for the flu, you help lower the risk of workers on the front lines getting sick.”
She pointed out the the number of COVID-19 cases in the state has been rising in recent weeks. On Tuesday, she and Gov. John Carney said in his weekly COVID-19 press conference that they are considering new restrictions, including curfews on nights people are likely to be out partying and limitss on the numbers of people anyone can have in a private home.
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to take effect, and it’s particularly important for anyone who will be traveling during the Thanksgiving weekend to have their shot now.
During the 2019-2020 flu season, Delaware recorded more than 7,000 laboratory-confirmed flu cases. That means thousands more were not identified. Nearly 400 Delawareans were hospitalized due to the flu and 11 people died from flu complications. And that flu season was milder than the previous two.
A flu clinic schedule can be found at: https://dhss.delaware.gov/
The flu is easy to transmit, the state pointed out. Like COVID-19, flu is particularly disastrous for anyone with underlying medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, lung or cardiovascular problems.
The flu and COVID-19 have many similar symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue (tiredness), sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches, and headaches.
But there are some differences: COVID-19 cases also may include a change in or loss of taste or smell.
If you are sick, the best thing to do is call your health care provider to see if you should get tested for COVID-19 or come in for a visit, the state said. If the flu is caught quickly enough, doctors may be able to prescribe antiviral medicines that will shorten its duration and maybe prevent some complications.
Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids.
Prevention techniques are the same for both flu and COVID-19: Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, wear a face covering when in public, maintain 6 feet of space between others, especially those who reside outside of your own home, and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
If you do have the flu, stay home from work, school and other gatherings. Do not return until you are have been free of fever – with a temperature of less than 100 degrees F, without the use of fever-reducing medications – for at least 24 hours.