Yearly Flu Deaths For Adults and Kids

Influenza is a major deadly disease for adults and kids.

Sick mixed race boy having is temperature taken
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Influenza (the flu) causes millions of people in the US to become sick each year, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths in the US every flu season. In a pandemic flu season, during which there is a higher than usual outbreak of the flu virus, there are more infection-related deaths. However, even in a non-pandemic year, a lot of people die from the flu.

Flu deaths are often caused by complications of the viral infection, such as secondary bacterial infections, dehydration, or lung failure. The flu is more likely to cause death in a person who is already in frail health, but people who were otherwise healthy can die from the flu itself or from secondary complications, such as pneumonia.

Data About Flu Deaths

We have accurate data about flu deaths in children because states are required to report this information to the CDC. We have an estimate yearly adult flu deaths, which is calculated based on validated methods of population health. However, some public health organizations use estimates that include pneumonia or flu related complications, while some do not include these in the numbers of flu deaths.

According to the CDC, flu-related deaths between the years of 1976-2007 ranged from 3,000-49,000. In more recent years, the flu-related death rate from 2010-2016 was between 12,000-56,000, with the highest season being the 2012-2013 season and the lowest season being the 2011-2012 season.

There are many factors that contribute to the total number of flu deaths, including the number of people infected by the flu, the availability of vaccines, and the strain of the flu virus itself.

Deaths in Flu Pandemics

There have been several known flu pandemics throughout history. Some were more widespread in certain geographic areas, but the impact of a pandemic is usually felt, at least to some degree, worldwide.

  • 1889 Russian Flu Pandemic: About 1 million flu deaths
  • 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic: Over 40 to 50 million flu deaths, including about 675,000 in the United States. The flu infected over half of the world's population by the end of the pandemic.
  • 1957 Asian Flu Pandemic: Over 1 million flu deaths, including about 69,800 in the United States
  • 1968 Hong Kong Flu Pandemic: About 1 to 3 million flu deaths
  • 2009 H1N1 Flu Pandemic: Between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths in the United States and up to 203,000 deaths worldwide

Pediatric Flu Deaths

Children who have asthma, diabetes, or other chronic medical conditions are more susceptible to acute respiratory difficulties resulting from a flu infection. However, even healthy children without any underlying medical condition or immune deficiency can get a severe flu infection. These infections can advance rapidly or can cause prolonged illness, potentially resulting in death.

Reports have shown that about half of the children who die from the flu each year have no known risk factors for flu complications. And, typically, 80 to 90 percent of the children who die from the flu were not fully vaccinated.

The number of children who have died from the flu in recent years:

  • 2003-04 flu season: 152 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2004-05 flu season: 39 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2005-06 flu season: 41 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2006-07 flu season: 68 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2007-08 flu season: 88 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2008-09 flu season: 133 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2009-10 flu season: 282 pediatric flu deaths
    • (swine flu pandemic)
  • 2010-11 flu season: 123 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2011-12 flu season: 37 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2012-13 flu season: 171 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2013-14 flu season: 111 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2014-15 flu season: 148 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2015-16 flu season: 85 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2016-17 flu season: 110 pediatric flu deaths
  • 2017-2018 flu season: 179 pediatric flu deaths by August 10 2018

How to Prevent Flu Deaths

Of course, the best way to prevent flu deaths is to avoid getting sick with the flu in the first place. There are several methods that you can use to prevent getting an influenza infection and to lessen your risk of developing serious complications and spreading the flu if you get it.

  1. Get the annual flu vaccine. The most simple, best protection from the flu is a yearly flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine by the end of October each year. The recommendations for flu vaccines may be slightly different from year to year, and you can get the most updated information each fall, from your doctor's office, your local pharmacy, or from a reliable online resource.
  2. Take precautions if you are taking care of a baby. Babies younger than 6 months are at high risk of catching the flu but are too young to be vaccinated. It is important that you get vaccinated if you take care of a baby to prevent the baby from becoming infected with the flu.
  3. Good health habits can also help stop the spread of flu germs. When you are sick, stay home, so that you won't spread the contagious germs. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands often as that will remove the germs. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Clean and disinfect surfaces that people frequently touch. Keep your general health in good order by eating nutritious food, staying well-hydrated, getting enough sleep, and being physically active.
  1. See your doctor if you think you might have the flu. Your doctor can identify complications early and can determine whether you could benefit from taking prescription medication, such as antiviral medications for the flu, or antibiotics if you have a bacterial infection. Sometimes, medications can make your illness milder, or last fewer days, helping prevent serious complications and death from the flu.

A Word From Verywell

Looking at the total numbers and specifically at how many children die of the flu can be a wake-up call for how serious influenza is and the need to take precautions for your family.

The 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic was the first pandemic for which a large supply of flu vaccine was available, although the vaccine became available as cases were already peaking in the United States. A limited supply of flu vaccine was also available during the 1968 pandemic, but by the time it was available, cases had already peaked. In recent years, availability and recommendations regarding flu vaccines have improved. Public awareness of flu symptoms and risk factors has also increased, leading people to take precautions and to seek medical attention sooner.

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