A 56-year-old Kent County man who died of influenza B last week became the first Delawarean to die from flu in the 2020-21 season, according the Delaware Division of Public Health.
The man, who was not identified, had underlying health conditions.
The state has recorded only five laboratory-confirmed cases of flu this season. There likely are many more, because only a small percentage of cases have samples sent to labs for confirmation. They often are tested in doctor’s offices or simply treated for the symptoms.
“This tragedy reminds us that while we are diligently fighting COVID-19, we cannot forget about influenza as it also can be extremely dangerous and deadly, particularly to individuals who already have weakened immune systems,” said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Public Health.
The death underscores Rattay’s call Tuesday for people in Kent County to be tested for COVID-19, because the county’s rate of positive cases and hospitalizations of the state’s three counties, but its testing rate is the lowest, especially outside of Dover.
Rattay encouraged people to get flu shots even now.
“The vaccine will lessen your likelihood of getting the flu and can lower the severity of your symptoms if you catch it,” she said. “You should also take antiviral medicines if your primary care provider prescribes them.”
Those who have the flu should stay home from work, school, and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever without using fever medications for at least 24 hours.
When COVID-19 popped up last year, it did so at the end of the flu season and caused a lot of concern among people who said they could not tell the difference between the two.
Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. COVID-19 can have similar symptoms — including terrific stomach upsets — but has one tell-tale symptom flu does not: Many people with COVID say they can’t smell or taste food.
Flu vaccines are still available through primary care doctors and specialists, pharmacies and grocery stores.
Flu shots for all ages over 6 months continue to be available at DPH clinics, but require an appointment:
- Porter State Service Center, 509 W. Eighth St., Wilmington. Call 302-515-3174 to schedule appointment.
- Hudson State Service Center, 501 Ogletown Road, Newark. Call 302-283-7570 to schedule appointment.
- Williams State Service Center, 805 River Road, Dover. Call 302-857-5140 to schedule appointment.
- Milford State Service Center – Riverwalk, 253 N.E. Front St., Milford. Call 302-424-7130 to schedule appointment.
- Anna C. Shipley State Service Center, 350 Virginia Ave., Seaford. Call 302-628-6772 to schedule appointment.
- Adams State Service Center, 544 S. Bedford St., Georgetown. Call 302-515-3174 to schedule appointment.