According to new estimates, between 291,000 and 646,000 people worldwide die from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses each year, higher than a previous estimate of 250,000 to 500,000 and based on a robust, multinational survey.
“These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority,” says Joe Bresee, M.D., associate director for global health in CDC’s Influenza Division and a study co-author.
The new estimates use more recent data, taken from a larger and more diverse group of countries than previous estimates. Forty-seven countries contributed to this effort. Researchers calculated annual seasonal influenza-associated respiratory deaths for 33 of those countries (57 percent of the world’s population) that had death records and seasonal influenza surveillance information for a minimum of four years between 1999 and 2015. Statistical modeling with those results was used to generate an estimate of the number of flu-associated respiratory deaths for 185 countries across the world. Data from the other 14 countries were used to validate the estimates of seasonal influenza-associated respiratory death from the statistical models.
Poorest nations, older adults hit hardest by flu
Researchers calculated region-specific estimates and age-specific mortality estimates for people younger than 65 years, people 65-74 years, and people 75 years and older. The greatest flu mortality burden was seen in the world’s poorest regions and among older adults. People age 75 years and older and people living in sub-Saharan African countries experienced the highest rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths. Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asian countries had slightly lower but still high rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths.
Pediatric deaths in the US
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 17 more children have died due to the flu, bringing the total to 114 pediatric deaths this season.
While there is some good news, there is also bad news in the new report. The CDC says the overall proportion of influenza A –the predominant virus– is declining, but the proportion of influenza B is increasing.
Overall, the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza has decreased. The hospitalization rate for influenza-like illness continues to be at the highest levels recorded with a rate of 81.7 per 100,000 population.
The highest rate of hospitalization this flu season continues to be adults aged 65 and over, with 350.7 per 100,000. Children 4-years-old and under report a hospitalization rate of 57.8 per 100,000.