HealthDay News — Influenza was deadlier last season than it has been for at least four decades, killing 80,000 Americans. So said the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Tuesday in an interview with the Associated Press.
“That’s huge,” William Schaffer, M.D., a vaccine expert at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., told the AP. He said that a total of 80,000 deaths is more than double the number expected in a typical “bad” flu season. In recent years, the annual flu death toll has ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 deaths, the CDC said.
Last year’s flu season made headlines for its scope and severity, but the new number still surprised experts. The 2017 to 2018 flu season was made worse by two factors: strains that hit the very young and elderly especially hard, and a poor match-up between those strains and those in the flu vaccine. Still, even the relatively weak flu shot probably saved many lives, CDC experts say, so everyone should avail themselves of the shot again this season.
As autumn brings another flu season, CDC director Robert Redfield, M.D., told the AP that, “I’d like to see more people get vaccinated.” The agency recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get the annual flu shot. As for the coming season, the CDC says that, so far, at least the circulating strain seems to be a milder one, and there are preliminary signs that the vaccine match is good.