Influenza has claimed the lives of two people in the state of Delaware including that of a pregnant woman. The two deaths occurred in Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city where a 77-year-old man succumbed to the disease after being hospitalized for several days and in the small town of Smyrna where influenza claimed the life of an expectant mother. The victim was 33 years old and in the second trimester of pregnancy when she was admitted with the symptoms of H1N1—commonly known as swine flu — on February 16. It is reported that she had first come in for tests 11 days before her death and was diagnosed for H1N1. She was admitted with severe respiratory distress and delivered her child a day later by emergency caesarean section. She died on February 22. The victim had not received any influenza vaccinations prior to her hospitalization.
The Diamond State has among the highest incidences of flu cases and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has tracked the incidence of influenza in the state as widespread for the last three months. While individual states are not required to report the number of deaths caused by influenza, the CDC estimates that every year, nearly 50,000 people die of flu or secondary complications arising from flu. The period between late November and March—often referred to as flu season—sees hospitals filled with severe cases of the illness with the number of cases peaking in the months of December and January. Influenza has claimed two lives in as many days in the state of Delaware. These cases follow the death of a 50-year-old woman in Sussex County, bringing the state’s influenza death toll to three. In all three cases, the victims were believed to have other underlying medical conditions. Dr. Karyl Thomas Rattay, Director of the Delaware Division of Public Health stated that the two deaths were tragedies. “Our thoughts and prayers go to the mother’s child and all of the loved ones of our two deceased community members,” she continued. Dr. Rattay also emphasized the need for flu vaccinations for children who are over six months old and also for adults as untreated flu could result in serious medical complications including bronchitis and even pneumonia.
The Delaware Division of Public Health reported 957 cases of influenza with over 30 hospitalizations during the current flu season. The CDC also reported that influenza-like illnesses have been above baseline levels across the nation, with over 10 percent of all tested samples testing positive for influenza. There have been at least four pediatric deaths and 24.7 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. The data also indicates that only about 35 percent of people between the ages of 18-65 receive flu shots. The two lives claimed by influenza in the state of Delaware come in the wake of deaths in Jefferson County, New York and the deaths of two pregnant women in Arkansas and California. With flu season due to end only in late March, the CDC and public health authorities continue to advise high-risk groups such as pregnant women, children and healthcare workers to get their flu vaccinations. Vaccinations have been made increasingly accessible, especially during flu season with retailers, pharmacists and schools stocking up on vaccines against influenza.
By Grace Stephen