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Widespread flu worsens in Delaware

Tom Byrne/Delaware Public Media

Widespread flu activity is plaguing the First State, as the number of lab-confirmed cases continues to rise.

The state last reported 142 lab-confirmed cases alone the week of Dec. 30, 370 lab-confirmed cases overall, and 95 hospitalization. The number has since jumped to 555 cases and 146 hospitalizations which were recorded on Jan. 6, according to Delaware's Division of Public Health. Dr. Awele Maduka-Ezeh, the Medical Director for the Division of Public Health, said there are likely many more unconfirmed cases.


Delaware is one of 49 states reporting widespread flu activity and Maduka says residents shouldn’t test the flu’s unpredictability.


“We can’t say for now if we’ve gotten to the peak and we’re now trending down, there’s no way for us to tell until we actually see the numbers,” she said. “That being said, the best an individual can do is to protect himself, his family and his coworkers and get the shot.”


Maduka encourages Delawareans to get vaccinated soon, because the human body needs at least two weeks to build up immunity to the virus.


In December 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a strain of the flu called H3N2 is dominating the 2017-2018 flu season. The CDC recommended using antiviral medications to treat the flu and treatment should start within two days of symptoms showing.


When scientists develop the vaccine annually, they have to design a very resistant cocktail months prior to when the flu hits. Wayne Smith, the president of Delaware Healthcare Association, said they can’t always predict if a flu strain will mutate later on.


“And this has happened in the past. It’s not a new situation in the world where you see a relatively poor match between the vaccine that was adopted and the strain that is actually prevalent,” Smith said. “We still want to encourage everyone to get their flu shot because there is some coverage, it’s just not as effective as some other years.”


Hospitals across the country are reportedly running low on beds because flu activity has been so severe.


Bayhealth Medical Center says it is experiencing a high volume of patients at its Kent and Milford campuses, and that the flu is likely one of the reasons why.


“While the flu is likely contributing, patients are here for a variety of reasons,” said Bayhealth in a statement. “We continuously work with our medical staff to ensure patients who are able to be, are discharged in a prompt manner so that we are able to care for new patients needing to be admitted.”


Both Bayhealth and Christiana Care Health System said the number of patients is constantly changing and it’s difficult to track how many patients are there for the flu versus other health problems.


This post has been updated.


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