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NEW YORK — An estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications last winter — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield, revealed the total in an interview Tuesday night with The Associated Press.


Flu experts knew it was a very bad season, but at least one found size of the estimate surprising.

“That’s huge,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University vaccine expert. The tally was nearly twice as much as what health officials previously considered a bad year, he said.

In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to — in the worst year — 56,000, according to the CDC.


Last fall and winter, the U.S. went through one of the most severe flu seasons in recent memory. It was driven by a kind of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths, particularly among young children and the elderly.

The season peaked in early February. It was mostly over by the end of March, although some flu continued to circulate.

Making a bad year worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well. Experts nevertheless say vaccination is still worth it, because it makes illnesses less severe and save lives.

“I’d like to see more people get vaccinated,” Redfield told the AP at an event in New York. “We lost 80,000 people last year to the flu.”

CDC officials do not have exact counts of how many people die from flu each year. Flu is so common that not all flu cases are reported, and flu is not always listed on death certificates. So the CDC uses statistical models, which are periodically revised, to make estimates.

Fatal complications from the flu can include pneumonia, stroke and heart attack.

CDC officials called the 80,000 figure preliminary, and it may be slightly revised. But they said it is not expected to go down.

It eclipses the estimates for every flu season going back to the winter of 1976-1977. Estimates for many earlier seasons were not readily available.

Last winter was not the worst flu season on record, however. The 1918 flu pandemic, which lasted nearly two years, killed more than 500,000 Americans, historians estimate.

It’s not easy to compare flu seasons through history, partly because the nation’s population is changing. There are more Americans — and more elderly Americans — today than in decades past, noted Dr. Daniel Jernigan, a CDC flu expert.

U.S. health officials on Thursday are scheduled to hold a media event in Washington, D.C., to stress the importance of vaccinations to protect against whatever flu circulates this coming winter.

And how bad is it going to be? So far, the flu that’s been detected is a milder strain, and early signs are that the vaccine is shaping up to be a good match, Jernigan said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re seeing more encouraging signs than we were early last year,” he said.

— Mike Stobbe

  • Ordinary face masks may not filter viruses but wearing one could help to reduce infection. How? By preventing people from touching their nose and mouth, the main entry points of the virus.

  • If this is true then why wasn’t the Untied States quarantined and put on lockdown last year like they may do this year? Why couldn’t vaccines prevented this from happening? The common flu has killed tons of more people than the coronavirus has and yet the entire world is already in panic mode over this and not the common flu? Why weren’t we in panic mode last year? Why all of the sudden now? Vaccines are useless if all they continue to do is mutate. I’ll never take a flu shot.

  • Yes! So much fear! The CDC of course, doesn’t tell anyone that they don’t “just” track the flu numbers, they lump the flu numbers in with all kinds of other diseases that present similar symptoms to the flu. Why? Because the people that actually die from the flu are incredibly low. A small handful in the thousands, sometimes only a few hundred a year. In fact, buried on their own website, they admit that the majority of the people they claim that died from the flu, were never actually checked to see if they even HAD the flu. CDC “estimates” the number of flu and “influenza like” deaths based on strong recommendations from the corporations that own the politicians, who pass the laws, that say everyone needs to be vaccinated, which of course nets the pharmaceutical sociopaths billions and billions of dollars for vaccines that no one needs. No parrot organization, including news or politician, will ever recommend a corrective action for anything that doesn’t net someone at the top, billions of dollars.

  • Sadly MANY times more WILL die from the FLU this year than from Covid19
    yet it will never be mentioned because it doesn’t fit the current agenda.
    And more than 800,000 healthy Americans WILL die this year via abortion but AGAIN there will be no mention of it and no “crisis” or “state of emergency” declared over it.
    World wide over 650,000 will die this year from the FLU just as they have EVERY year for hundreds of years yet AGAIN no “crisis” or “state of emergency” will ever be declared.
    So in reality, Covid19 ranks right up there with the Y2K scare and decades from now will be laughed about whenever the gullibility of this generation is discussed

    • The flu shot is only good for one year. The flu virus mutates every year. You may be immune to every flu virus you have ever been exposed to or gotten a flu shot to prevent. When the flu mutates a lot the flu shot does not work well because the particular virus was left out of that shot.

      A flu shot is needed every year because every year the flu virus is different compared to the prior year.

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