The flu season last year was one of the worst in decades, with nearly 80,000 flu deaths and the highest hospitalization rate for the virus in modern history. But new estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give us an even clearer idea of how bad the flu season really was last year.
A report from the CDC released this week estimated the flu shot among adults during the 2017-18 flu season was 37.1 percent, 6.2 percentage points less than the previous season and for the lowest rate of vaccination since the season 2010-2011. It estimates that 48.8 million people are ill with influenza, with 959,000 hospital admissions and 79,000 deaths.
In addition, the CDC said last season was particularly "atypical" as it was severe for people of all ages.
The burden of influenza and the rates of influenza-associated hospital stays are generally higher for very young and very old people, and although this was also the case during the 2017-2018 season, hospitalization rates were the highest in all age groups Since 2005, hospital surveillance has been extended to all age groups.
The flu season 2017-2018 was record-breaking on several fronts. In addition to the exceptionally high numbers of hospitalizations, the flu season last year led to 180 infant deaths, the highest ever recorded since the CDC's current monitoring method was adopted.
While the data build on a previous September report, the estimates released on Thursday give new insights into the size of the flu season last year, especially in relation to the number of sick and hospital residents.
"Last year was a terrible season," Daniel Jernigan, head of the CDC Influenza Department, said during a media call last month. "It was just a tremendous amount of disease."
The CDC said that its estimated 48.8 million people in 11.5 million cases of influenza in children, 30 million cases of influenza in adults of working age (18- 6459) and more than 7.3 million cases Adults over the age of 65 years or older.
The CDC notes that its findings are not consistent with preliminary data estimates from other sources that show no reduction in flu shots. It also noted that the limitations of his survey included "reliance on self-reporting vaccination status and declining response rates." Despite possible data restrictions, the CDC said influenza vaccination in adults remains low.
"As the 2018-19 season is underway, it is important that providers prioritize flu vaccination for their patients," the CDC said. "These include customer feedback on the availability of flu vaccines, the assessment of vaccination status at each visit, an effective vaccine recommendation, and the supply of the vaccine."
What reminds us is washing your hands and averting any sneezing and coughing can only go so far. Although we can not be completely sure why the flu season last year was so bad, it should be pointed out again that the vaccine is a surefire way to prevent the flu.
[CDC via Washington Post]