Flu-related deaths in the United States last winter became the single highest toll of the last four decades, new numbers showed.
According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 80,000 people died during the past flu season due to the disease, as reported by Gizmodo.
During the 2017-2018 flu season, around 900,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized, making it the highest hospitalization rate because of the illness in recent history. The number broke the previous record set in 2014-2015.
There were also 180 reported child deaths, the highest number of pediatric casualties caused by seasonal flu since 2004. Even though the 2009 swine flu epidemic killed more children, it is not considered a seasonal flu.
“Last year was just a horrible season. It was just a tremendous amount of disease,” said Daniel Jernigan, head of the CDC’s influenza division, on Thursday.
It is hard to determine exactly how much flu-related death and illness numbers have changed over the years because of the U.S.’s tracking system, but last season’s death toll was much higher than any figure previously recorded since 1976-1977. According to NBC News, flu usually takes anywhere between 12,000 and 56,000 lives a year.
“It’s high, but it’s consistent with what we had last season,” Dr. Jernigan told NBC News.
My latest @SELFmagazine : just get the flu shot. Last year's #flu season killed about 80,000 in the US. Even a moderately-effective flu #vaccine can protect you and your community from infection, hospitalization, and death. https://t.co/OCHDOuHxdH
— Dr. Tara C. Smith (@aetiology) September 28, 2018
However, other doctors were more critical about the reasons why the numbers were so high this season, especially among children.
“Those 80,000 people who died from flu last year? Guess what? They got it from someone. Someone gave them the flu. The majority of them [children] were unvaccinated. It’s healthy kids out there that are dying from the flu,” Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said.
As reported by Gizmodo, around 80 percent of children who died from the flu were not vaccinated. The CDC also said that even though these figures are preliminary, it is improbable they will change much by the final tally.
“That first week in January, I said it was peaking. Then the next week I said it was peaking,” Dr. Jernigan claimed.
The most predominant strain that circulated in the country last season was the H3N2. The influenza A virus is typically more virulent than other seasonal strains, and vaccines against it are also less effective. The H3N2 virus also tends to target “a vulnerable spot” of the population the hardest – people over the age of 65 -, according to Dr. Jernigan.
Dr. Adams and other medical practitioners have urged Americans to start getting their annual flu shots now.