Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates show vaccine effectiveness to be particularly low for this influenza season. The influenza A H3N2 causing a large proportion of the illness in the community is a drifted (mutated) virus from the vaccine strain. Elders and those with underlying medical conditions have been particularly impacted in Delaware.
A new flu fatality on 1/16/2015 brings the total flu fatalities to fifteen statewide for this flu season. This is more than twice the number of fatalities for any flu season in recent years. 14 of those 15 deaths were in individuals over 65 years with underlying medical conditions.
With the high number of fatalities, the Division of Public Health urges medical providers to consider early treatment of seniors and other vulnerable individuals who have flu-like symptoms with anti-viral medications, regardless of their vaccination status. The neuraminidase inhibitors Oseltamivir and zanamivir are most effective when administered within 48 hours of onset of symptoms, thus providers should not wait for the results of influenza testing to initiate treatment. Providers should also consider offering anti-virals to seniors and vulnerable individuals with flu symptoms even if they present for care more than 48 hours after symptoms onset.
In addition to seniors, others who are most vulnerable are the very young, pregnant women and those who are within 6 weeks post-partum, and people with underlying medical conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and individuals with immunocompromising conditions.
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