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.

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“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.

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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

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  • The difference between absorbing mercury or aluminum through first defense barriers is very different to IM. Only the injectable flu vax contains dead virus. This doesn’t hold for the nasal mist which is been reintroduced. Heres some more infohttps://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1717301001700766&id=1526189584145243 . Also can you share the study that shows the fluvax reduces symtoms of other viruses not in the vaccine, as I’ve only seen studies that show vaccinated are more likely to contract these viruses

  • The one thing about the flu shot that keeps me from getting it is that it contains MERCURY. I’ll stay home all winter if I have to before i let them inject mercury in my body. Sorry but it my theory that it is the shots causing the deaths and the spread of the virus. One, they say you can have the virus but not get symptoms. Two, the shot contains more than one flu virus. Everyone who gets the shot now becomes a carrier. DUH

    • Oy. So mercury… what else contains mercury? Shrimp. Tuna. Catfish. Let’s not jump the gun before determining how much is too much or too little. Flu shots contain a “dead” virus. It cannot infect because it is no longer alive. It merely exists to give your immune system a picture of what the flu virus is supposed to look like, so it can be attacked early if you get infected.

      I respect people who legitimately have religious beliefs against it, despite too many people falsely claiming this route.

      I respect people who turn it down due to having an autoimmune disease. Sure, that at least makes sense.

      I even respect people who don’t want the shot because they have a severe phobia of needles.

      But please do not spread misinformation and use that same misinformation to justify putting others at risk. The flu is deadly, and taking the shot does reduce the rate of fatalities.

      More evidence? It’s nearly universally covered by insurance companies. Why? Do they just want to line “Big Pharma’s” pockets? Heck no. It’s because they want to line their own. They know if they give the shot away to patients, that’s one less potential hospitalization. One less severe pneumonia. They PAY FOR THE SHOT BECAUSE IT INDIRECTLY SAVES THEM MONEY.

    • What misinformation? Everything I said are facts. Also I do have an autoimmune disease. I said what my choice is, and a theory I have. Never gave misinformation. I believe it is a personal choice and had no intention of convincing anyone to choose the same choice I made. So what misinformation am I spreading? explain.

  • The winter of 2016/2017 my sister got a flu. Ended up with pneumonia. She was very ill and on several meds. Dr. was on the verge of putting her in the hospital if the meds didn’t start working soon. Thank heavens they did and she got better. She had taken a flu shot and a pneumonia shot. When she questioned the doctor he said the flu was a different strain than what the flu shot covered and the same with the pneumonia. Wonder how he came to that conclusion since he didn’t culture the flu to determine what strain she had??? My thinking is: If you take a flu shot and still get the flu that is the answer you’re going to get. If you don’t get the flu shot and get the flu they are going to say…..you should have gotten a flu shot.

    • You can still get the flu with a flu shot, however, studies show that on average, your duration of flu will be dramatically reduced.

      They won’t culture the flu because the doctor isn’t the one that makes the vaccine, and you don’t need a culture to prescribe an antiviral.

      The fact that your sister got a flu AND pneumonia shot tells me that she’s either older than 65, or she has comorbidities that require her to get the pneumonia shot before 65. So as you say… “She had taken a flu shot and a pneumonia shot… ..and she got better.”

  • This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Flu season runs typically Sept/Oct to March approximately (7 months). If we accepted 80,000 died of flu last season, then that would mean OVER 10,000 people died EACH MONTH. Why didn’t any media outlets pick up on 10,000 deaths DURING flu season if this data is correct? No one picked up on it because it is a lie. CDC owns over 50 patents on vaccines. And, they never reported how many “deaths” were amongst vaccinated v. unvaccinated. And, isn’t it convenient that the flu isn’t anywhere around UNTIL AFTER vaccinations start??

  • Below Michael Forbes answers Liesbeth Brown. Starts out saying …Good question. Not sure. Then comes up with all these numbers and answers…..and tells us to go get a flu shot. Where did these “facts and figures” he is quoting come from?

  • If they know that 80,000 died from the flu in the winter of 2018 they should know how many of them had taken a flu shot, but I can’t seem to find this information anywhere. Another thing that comes into question is how many of the 80,000 would have died during flu season from an underlying medical condition? I would like to see these actual figures. Also, how many of them had underlying medical problems? I would also like to know how many people took a flu shot and still got a flu but recovered in a few days. I don’t believe we are hearing the whole story……only the part they want us to hear so big pharmaceutical companies, doctors, etc. can make more money.

    • Good question. Not sure. 80% of hospitalized children were not vaccinated. Most deaths are among the non-vaccinated. Most infected, contagious folks NEVER get symptoms; they only transmit the virus. While 30-40% protection against a possibly lethal, stealth pathogen is not great-its better than 0%. 80,000 dead people, most of which were likely unvaccinated and landed in the hospital have sent us a message. Go get your flu shot, and wash your hands. Prevent what you can prevent ; life’s not fair

    • look at the ingredients in a flu shot , then tell me that this is good to be in your blood stream , why do these goverment idiots want you to take a flu shot &i too would like to know how many had the flu shot before the died of WHAT the flu.

  • I got my flu shot in August, shortly after it became available. I turned 60 in August, and I’ve heard that people my age should consider getting another shot mid-season. The shots seem to be going up by about $5/year — it was $50 at CVS this year.

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