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Delaware Health Alert Network #159

November 1, 2008 9:30 am

Health Advisory


The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is reporting the state's first laboratory confirmed case of influenza. The case is a six year-old from New Castle County that was evaluated in the emergency department and released to home. This case is Type B influenza and was confirmed at the DPH laboratory by PCR (polymerase chain reaction).

In addition to laboratory testing, DPH conducts surveillance for influenza by monitoring the occurrence of influenza like illness (ILI) in all hospitals and selected long term care facilities, large corporations and stand alone medical clinics. Reports are provided to DPH weekly. (ILI is fever equal to or greater than 100 degrees F, oral or equivalent, and cough and/or sore throat, in the absence of a known cause). ILI activity has not increased so far this year. Nor have reports of respiratory symptoms among patients seen in Delaware's emergency rooms, also reported to DPH weekly.


During week 43 (October 19-25, 2008), a low level of influenza activity was reported in the United States. Five (0.4%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories were positive for influenza. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was below the epidemic threshold. The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) and acute respiratory illness was below national baseline levels. National information can be found at:


The Delaware Public Health Laboratory (DPHL) performs a Real Time Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (Real Time RT-PCR) method for detection of influenza virus nucleic acids. The data generated by Real Time RT-PCR will help determine what influenza viral types are circulating in Delaware, and the most appropriate treatment to provide to patients. Results are available within 48 to 72 hours depending on the number of specimens received. RT-PCR has the ability to detect non-viable viral particles and provides optimal sensitivity and specificity for identification of influenza. Furthermore, PCR can distinguish the common human strains of influenza virus (H1, H3) from uncommon strains (H5 and H7).

DPH strongly encourages health care providers to submit influenza specimens to the DPH Laboratory for PCR testing and subtyping (throat/NP/nasal wash) to assist with surveillance. Influenza testing by the DPH Laboratory is done free of charge and results are sent back to the requesting physician or hospital as soon as test results are available. To submit a specimen for culture, contact the DPH laboratory (302-223-1520) to request influenza virus detection kits and obtain information about specimen transport to the laboratory.

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