Flu blamed for 1 in 10 American deaths — and that number is expected to grow

Flu blamed for 1 in 10 American deaths — and that number is expected to grow
This year's flu season is the worst in years, and the number of flu-related deaths is expected to climb. (Paul Bradbury/Getty Images)

Influenza and pneumonia, which often go together, caused one of every 10 deaths in the U.S. last week, health officials said during a news conference Friday. And that figure is expected to rise.

Health officials warn that the flu season has yet to peak, Bloomberg news reported. So far, the number of people hospitalized is similar to what is typically seen at the end of a flu season.

How many people have died?

During the third week of 2018, there were 40,414 deaths in the U.S., according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, 4,054 were from influenza or pneumonia. That figure will likely rise as the agency receives more reports.

“Unfortunately, more deaths are likely to happen,” Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s acting director, stated in Bloomberg’s report.

The CDC also expects more pneumonia and influenza-related deaths over the next few weeks.

“The people who are likely to die are already in the hospital,” Schuchat said.

How bad is the flu outbreak?

Flu cases in the U.S. this year are at levels normally seen when a completely new virus emerges, Bloomberg news reported.

So, when might this brutal flu season end? It could be as long as a few more months. Flu season can begin as early as October or November and last through May, according to the CDC.

“This is a difficult season, and we can’t predict how much longer the severe season will last,” Schuchat said. “I wish there was better news, but everything we are looking at is bad news.”

Public health experts are still baffled by the development, Bloomberg reported.

This year’s influenza strain is not considered much different from viruses of previous seasons, she said. Experts are trying to determine why this year is shaping up to be an extremely rough one.

“We have a lot to learn still about influenza,” Schuchat said. “It’s a wake-up call about how severe influenza can be, and why we can never let down our guard.”

How does this compare to other years?

Reports of influenza-like illnesses are now are as high as the peak of the swine flu epidemic in 2009. Figures also exceed the number of illnesses seen during the swine flu epidemic of 2003, when a new virus began circulating, according to the report.

In 2009 and 2010, the swine flu “sickened 60.8 million Americans, hospitalized 274,304, and killed 12,469,” data from the CDC shows. Deaths this year are expected to outnumber figures from the 2009-2010 season.

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