With COVID-19 cases raging, health officials say you need your flu shot. Delaware has its first case
Delaware reported its first case of the flu for the 2020-21 season Thursday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise across the state.
The flu case was also the state's first pediatric case of the season, as the child is under the age of 5 from Kent County. The flu vaccine is recommended for Delawareans 6 months of age and older.
“The flu vaccine won’t prevent COVID-19, but it is effective at preventing the flu," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of the state's Division of Public Health. "The flu vaccine decreases the number of people who need to be treated for the flu. This means more health care supplies, resources, and professionals will be available on the front lines to fight the pandemic."
Martha Dorsey usually gets a flu shot each year. At 65, she doesn't think much of it because it is part of her annual routine. This year, however, the Bear resident was particularly intentional about it.
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Her husband has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and they already worry about COVID-19.
"I definitely want to make sure that he is not going to be exposed to anything," she said.
On Wednesday afternoon, Dorsey went to the ChristianaCare Primary Care in New Castle for a flu shot clinic.
The office has held flu clinics in the past but due to COVID-19; patients now have to make appointments to reduce the number of people in the waiting room. All the doctors are also always masked, and appointments take less than 20 minutes.
"The flu and COVID are both respiratory illnesses," said Dr. Caroline Snowberger. "They can present very similarly. They could both can be very dangerous, deadly."
Similar symptoms include fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain or body aches and headaches.
So far, there has been only one flu case in Delaware, but health officials anticipate that after Thanksgiving, that number will go up if people don't get the vaccine beforehand. This will put pressure on the health care system, which is already concerned about controlling the spread of COVID-19.
"By eliminating the need to visit your provider’s office or be hospitalized for the flu, you help lower the risk of workers on the front lines getting sick," Rattay said.
The 2019-2020 flu season was a rough one for the state and saw over 7,000 cases.
COVID-19 numbers also have steadily been on the rise in the last few weeks. So far, there are over 27,340 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
"The sooner that you can get it, the better," Snowberger said of the flu shot.
In addition to getting a flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu the same way they can prevent COVID-19:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
- Wear a face covering when in public when in public.
- Maintain 6 feet of space between others, especially those who reside outside of your own home.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of a fever.
Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but if people suspect they have influenza, they should call their doctor. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.
A flu clinic schedule can be found at dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. Flu vaccines are also offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and even some grocery stores.
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