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Div. of Public Health urges residents get flu shot as new flu season begins

Another flu season is beginning and Delaware’s Division of Public Health is urging residents to prepare by getting a flu shot.

"It's the best protection," said DPH director Dr. Karyl Rattay.

DPH offered free shots Friday during its annual mass flu vaccination emergency preparedness drill at the New Castle Farmers Market.

The First State recorded 28 flu-related deaths during the 2014-15 flu season, up from just four the year before.  State officials say it’s the most they can recall in Delaware in a single year. All were over 55 years old and had chronic underlying conditions.

The state also reported over 2,300 confirmed flu cases, an increase from about 1,700 in the previous year.

Dr. Rattay says the spike was the result of a historically strong strain of flu that also mutated unexpectedly.  That diminished the effectiveness of last year’s vaccine, especially in high-risk groups like the elderly and those with underlying medical issues. 

Rattay says that strain is expected to be prevalent again this year, and with a better vaccine match, a flu shot can help you and those around you.

“The reality is most all of us are in contact with individuals who are at high-risk. That also includes small children and pregnant women as well," said Dr. Rattay. "So, it’s really important for all of us whether we’re considered high-risk or not to get the flu vaccination, not only to protect ourselves, but to protect others.”

This year, the state is also focusing on ensuring people with disabilities can more quickly and easily get vaccinations.  That's something Nick Fina of the State Council for Persons with Disabilities says is very important.

“The kind of people who might have a difficult time to a flu shot dispensing spot are likely to say its too much trouble – and they’re the ones that are likely to have possibly life-threatening implications if they do get the flu," said Fina.

Am estimated 500 people got flu shots at Friday’s free clinic at the New Castle Farmers Market, including Gov. Jack Markell.  It's the first of 36 free clinic DPH has planned between now and December throughout the state.

Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in the United States between December and February.  Since it takes about two weeks for a flu shot to become fully effective, health officials recommend getting it by the end of this month.

Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.
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