Disease & Illness

The Flu Is Causing More Deaths Than Expected This Year

Yikes! This is scary.

Although this year’s flu season is considered mild in terms of severity, it has caused more deaths than expected. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the flu has caused between 11,600 and 19,000 deaths so far, including 28 confirmed pediatric deaths. Up to 15.2 million people in the United States have been sickened by the virus. Experts aren’t sure why the flu is proving more fatal than would be expected.

“It’s a reminder that flu is serious and can be life-threatening,” Brendan Flannery, Ph.D., an epidemiologist with the CDC’s influenza division, told Consumer Reports.

The best way to protect yourself against the influenza virus is by getting a vaccine. Although it may be relatively late in the “flu season,” there’s still time to get the flu shot. Flu activity is expected to continue for several weeks to come. The CDC recommends that most everyone over the age of 6 be vaccinated.

flu shot photo
Getty Images | Justin Sullivan

This year’s vaccine is estimated to be about 47 percent effective overall. While that may seem low, it still means that getting the shot will reduce the chance that you need to seek medical care for the flu by about half. What’s more, the flu shot will lessen your chances of developing serious complications that can arise if you do get the virus, like pneumonia. For comparison, the vaccine for the 2017–2018 season was estimated to be only 36 percent effective.

This year’s vaccine is even more effective — 61 percent — for kids 6 months to 17 years old, which is good news because the flu is more dangerous for the young. Last year, 80 percent of deaths in children attributed to the flu occurred in children who were unvaccinated.

Besides getting vaccinated, be sure to follow other common-sense tips to help reduce the spread of flu, like washing your hands well, staying home from school or work while sick and not touching your face.