The 2017-2018 flu season lasted 19 weeks (winter is just 13 weeks). According to a report in the Sun Sentinel, there have been 172 pediatric flu deaths since October 17, 2017. Normally, the average death toll is about 110. The highest number in the last decade for childhood flu deaths was 300+, but that was a pandemic, not just the flu.
The flu season was marked by illnesses which forced people to be hospitalized, and many patients died as a result. The elderly were also severely impacted. Adding to the season’s troubles, the flu vaccine was not as effective as health officials hoped.
Some of the children who succumbed to the flu didn’t receive flu shots because they were too young – less than six months old. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) found that about 31 of the children who died weren’t old enough to get a flu shot. Of the 140 children who were eligible for a flu shot, only about 20% had actually received a flu vaccine shot.
The CDC has been keeping childhood flu fatality statistics since 2004. While the CDC doesn’t keep precise statistics on adults who die from the flu, the CDC estimates, according to the Sun-Sentinel story, that the flu has killed somewhere between 12,000 and 56,000 adults since 2004. That’s about 1,000 a year to 5,000 a year.
Why the flu is a severe health hazard
The flu is a contagious virus that can easily spread. In the majority of cases, there’s no real explanation for why a flu might affect someone for a week, but lead to the death of another; it’s not as though there are genetic markers or preconditions that make someone more likely to develop the flu – though certain groups of people, such as small children and the immuno-compromised, may be more likely to develop complications or die form the virus, than others.
When large groups of people don’t get inoculated, it actually makes it more dangerous for those who cannot be inoculated. Physicians should advise parents, the elderly, and others at risk of the dangers of not getting flu shots. If anyone does come down with the flu, doctors and hospitals should treat the patient with the proper degree of medical care.
We hope that next year’s flu strain is milder than this season’s was. But just in case it is not, we urge you to get vaccinated.
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