The Delaware Division of Public Health announced Oct. 8 the state’s first laboratory-confirmed 2019-20 case of influenza. It involves an 8-year-old from New Castle County.

“The flu is here,” said DPH Director Karyl Rattay. “Now that we have lab-confirmation of our first case, we hope this further motivates individuals who have not yet gotten their annual flu shot to do so right away. Getting a flu shot is quick, easy, and not only protects you, but also those around you. Most of us frequently spend time around someone who is likely to have more severe consequences from influenza. If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your loved ones.”

The flu vaccine is recommended for Delawareans 6 months of age and older. Since it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza virus infection to develop in the body, it is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to give the body time to build immunity. Getting the flu vaccine now will also provide protection during the entire flu season. During the 2018-19 flu season, Delaware recorded 6,387 laboratory-confirmed flu cases. More than 1,000 Delawareans were hospitalized due to the flu and 24 people died from flu complications.

DPH nurses, joined by nurses from the division’s partners at Bayhealth and the Delaware Medical Reserve Corps, administered free intramuscular flu vaccines to drivers, their passengers and even pedestrians age 9 years and older. By noon, 615 vaccinations had been administered during the drive-thru clinic. In addition, DPH administered 151 vaccinations during its walk-up flu clinic held Oct. 4 at Porter State Service Center in Wilmington. The clinics are DPH’s two primary public events. DPH will also offer various other flu clinics throughout the season. Flu vaccines are also offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and some grocery stores. To locate where flu vaccines nearby are being offered, Google "CDC flu finder" and enter a ZIP code.

The flu is easy to transmit, and can be transmitted even from seemingly healthy, but unvaccinated, children and adults. Children, older adults, and those who have chronic underlying medical conditions are most at-risk for complications from the flu and are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated now.

In addition to getting an annual flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illness with good hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet. Also avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth. Keep distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever — with a temperature of less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C), without the use of fever-reducing medications — for at least 24 hours.

People with flu symptoms should avoid close contact with well people in the household and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but those who suspect they have influenza should call a doctor, as they may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.

For more, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 800-282-8672.