Delaware records first death amid historically low flu season
Delaware has announced its first flu death of the season, a 56-year-old Kent County man who died last week.
The Division of Public Health said the man had underlying conditions and was infected with influenza B.
While the coronavirus pandemic rages on, this flu season is bringing historically low influenza numbers to Delaware and beyond. So far, there have been only five laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu – though the state says the actual number of cases circulating statewide is likely much higher as not all people with the flu seek treatment and many cases are diagnosed through rapid test kits in a provider's office versus a lab.
To show the drastic difference year-over-year: Week 51, ending Dec. 19, saw only two lab-confirmed cases in Delaware. The same week in 2019 brought 233 cases. And for the five-week period from Oct. 27 to Nov. 30 of last year, there were 140 lab-confirmed cases of influenza in Delaware. This year, that same time frame saw just one single lab-confirmed influenza case.
Flu activity typically peaks in the months from December to February. In the last four weeks of 2019 and the first eight weeks of 2020, Delaware recorded 5,350 lab-confirmed flu cases.
But the state will likely fall short of those numbers this flu season with a stay-at-home advisory, limitations to public and private gatherings and schools largely being devoid of student activity.
Earlier this month, DPH Medical Director Rick Hong told Delaware Online/The News Journal that while there isn't enough "solid evidence" to explain scientifically why the numbers are much lower this year, all signs point to mitigation strategies used to protect against the new coronavirus.
The state made a push to encourage people to get vaccinated this season. The Division of Public Health was not able to produce raw numbers on year-over-year vaccinations, but Hong said certain sites needed more vaccines than usual, indicating it's likely more people than usual got the flu vaccine.
Flu numbers are low nationwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu activity map for the week ending Dec. 19 showed zero states with more than "low" flu activity. The same week in 2019 saw at least 26 states with moderate-to-high levels of flu activity.
Meanwhile, hospitalizations related to the coronavirus topped 124,000 nationwide Wednesday, a pandemic-high. In Delaware, there were 425 people hospitalized as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. The number of daily hospitalizations has dropped day-over-day in five of the last seven days as officials brace for another post-holiday surge. The number of daily hospital admissions in Delaware have also been trending downward.
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