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Flu season deaths top 80,000 last year, CDC says

An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter, according to the US Centers for...

Posted: Sep 27, 2018 7:11 PM
Updated: Sep 27, 2018 7:11 PM

An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This means it was the deadliest season in more than four decades -- since 1976, the date of the first published paper reporting total seasonal flu deaths, said CDC Spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund.

In previous seasons, flu-related deaths have ranged from a low of about 12,000 during the 2011-2012 season to a high of about 56,000 during the 2012-2013.

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Total flu fatalities during the most recent season included the deaths of 180 children, which exceeds the previous record high of 171 during a non-pandemic flu season, according to the CDC.

"One hundred and eighty kids -- this really hit me hard as the father of three kids -- died last year from the flu. And the majority of them were unvaccinated," said US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome M. Adams. speaking at a news conference hosted by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases on Thursday. "Flu vaccinations save lives."

Additionally, the nation experienced a record-breaking estimated 900,000 hospitalizations last flu season.

'Definitely bad'

Overall, the United States experienced one of the most severe flu seasons in recent decades. Severity is based on flu activity, hospitalizations, and deaths from pneumonia or influenza, explained Nordlund. She added, "across the board, last year was definitely bad."

The season began with an increase of illness in November; high activity occurred during January and February, and then illness continued through the end of March.

"The thing that was most notable about last year was how high in terms of activity things were," said Nordlund. She explained that last season, unlike previous seasons, flu did not strike one region of the country and then move across the land. "There were three consecutive weeks when the entire continental US was affected by flu at a very high level," she said.

The 2017-2018 season was also marked by high severity across all age groups -- the first season where the CDC found that to be the case.

Adams said that getting the flu shot by the end of October is not just about keeping yourself safe and healthy, it's also about community. It's your "social responsibility to get vaccinated," he said, since it protects others around you, including family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

Pregnant women and children

Speaking at the same conference, Dr. Laura E. Riley, professor and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, said that less than half of all pregnant women -- 49% -- received a flu shot last year. She explained that during pregnancy, even a healthy pregnancy, the immune system is not working full throttle.

"Pregnant women who get the flu do very poorly," said Riley. "It is critical that we help pregnant women not get the flu." When flu strikes during pregnancy, there's a greater likelihood of hospitalization for the mother-to-be, she said.

Flu during pregnancy can also harm the baby, she said. High fever for an extended period can cause birth defects and lead to premature birth.

At every trimester, the flu vaccine is safe and effective for both pregnant women and their fetuses, plus it protects babies after they are born, preventing flu in the first six months of their lives when they are too young to get their own flu shot, she said.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, another conference speaker and chief of digital innovation and digital health at Seattle Children's Hospital, stressed that it's very important for children to get vaccinated.

"Kids have a lot of snot, they have a lot of drool and they go to school," she said over laughter from the audience. "We love them, but they are a lot of the reason flu moves around the community."

She said "kids are more likely to be immunized if their parents are" adding everyone 6 months and older should get a flu shot, which is the recommendation of the CDC.

Adams noted that a variety of vaccines have been officially approved this year, including nasal mist, and that they are widely available, including in doctor's offices, local pharmacies, some work places and even certain groceries stores.

Upcoming flu season

Overall, the effectiveness of the seasonal flu vaccine for last season was estimated to be 40%. This means the flu vaccine reduced a person's risk of having to seek medical care by 40%, the CDC found.

Dr. William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, said that those who get flu after receiving vaccine are less likely to require hospitalization and they're less likely to die.

"The vaccine is not perfect," said Schaffner. "But give the vaccine credit for softening the blow."

Looking ahead to the coming winter months, Australia's flu season, which precedes that in the Northern Hemisphere nations, is often an indicator of what's to come in the US, Canada and across Europe. That said, Schaffner warned that flu is "unpredictable."

As of September 9, Australia is experiencing a mild flu season with person-to-person transmission of flu-like illness "increasing slowly" since July, according to that nation's most recent surveillance report. Deaths attributed to influenza and patients requiring hospitalization have both been low.

Adams stressed that flu is "especially deadly for older adults, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions and children" and he recommended everyone take additional steps to avoid the flu this coming season.

Follow daily preventive actions such as washing your hands, covering your cough and staying home if sick. And, he said, get treated quickly and take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

Flu "can be serious even for healthy adults and healthy children," said Adams adding, "I'm going to get my flu shot today."

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 57779

Reported Deaths: 1670
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin18393825
Ramsey7130261
Dakota4112104
Anoka3456113
Stearns284720
Washington197843
Nobles17516
Olmsted164923
Scott143918
Mower10882
Rice10068
Blue Earth8655
Wright8275
Carver8052
Clay75840
Kandiyohi6811
Sherburne6677
St. Louis47519
Todd4212
Lyon4203
Freeborn3561
Steele3341
Nicollet32213
Benton3133
Watonwan3000
Winona25216
Crow Wing22114
Beltrami2070
Martin2045
Le Sueur2031
Chisago1841
Goodhue1838
Otter Tail1823
Cottonwood1730
Becker1481
McLeod1450
Pipestone1449
Polk1393
Douglas1360
Itasca13512
Waseca1330
Carlton1300
Pine1280
Dodge1250
Murray1221
Isanti1140
Unassigned10941
Chippewa1011
Brown852
Meeker852
Wabasha840
Faribault830
Morrison821
Sibley802
Rock750
Koochiching743
Pennington731
Jackson710
Mille Lacs693
Cass662
Fillmore610
Renville605
Lincoln540
Grant521
Swift521
Yellow Medicine500
Pope460
Roseau460
Houston400
Norman370
Redwood320
Wilkin313
Hubbard300
Kanabec301
Aitkin291
Marshall290
Mahnomen251
Wadena240
Big Stone220
Red Lake210
Lake180
Stevens160
Clearwater140
Traverse100
Lac qui Parle60
Kittson30
Cook20
Lake of the Woods10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 46704

Reported Deaths: 899
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk9874204
Woodbury367351
Black Hawk305462
Linn219887
Johnson200216
Dallas180735
Buena Vista179012
Scott163613
Dubuque159431
Marshall140725
Pottawattamie125724
Story112614
Wapello86633
Muscatine83948
Webster7637
Crawford7263
Sioux6072
Cerro Gordo58617
Tama54329
Warren5421
Jasper45825
Wright4511
Plymouth4488
Louisa37914
Dickinson3784
Clinton3383
Washington28810
Hamilton2431
Boone2342
Franklin2278
Bremer1967
Clarke1903
Emmet1852
Carroll1831
Shelby1761
Clay1741
Hardin1710
Marion1590
Allamakee1524
Poweshiek1518
Jackson1461
Benton1451
Des Moines1432
Mahaska13717
Floyd1322
Guthrie1285
Jones1262
Cedar1231
Buchanan1181
Butler1182
Hancock1172
Henry1143
Pocahontas1141
Lyon1080
Madison1072
Clayton1013
Cherokee991
Harrison990
Lee993
Delaware941
Humboldt941
Iowa941
Taylor940
Monona910
Winneshiek901
Mills850
Calhoun822
Kossuth820
Fayette810
Sac810
Palo Alto800
Mitchell780
Osceola780
Jefferson770
Page770
Grundy761
Winnebago760
Union741
Monroe707
Worth640
Lucas534
Chickasaw520
Davis511
Howard490
Cass481
Montgomery454
Appanoose433
Greene380
Fremont340
Van Buren341
Keokuk311
Ida290
Audubon281
Adair230
Decatur230
Ringgold211
Wayne191
Adams160
Unassigned40
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