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Flu Deaths on The Rise, So What’s Your Chances of Dying Too?

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Flu deaths rising and your risk

The latest flu-related news tells us that the most recent estimates on global flu-related deaths is at least approximately 100,000 more than previously estimated. If flu deaths are on the rise, what’s your chances of dying too this flu season? Here’s what you need to know to access your and your loved one’s risk.


According to a new study made by the CDC published in the journal Lancet, as many as 646,000 people are dying globally from seasonal influenza each year, which is significantly higher than earlier estimates that ranged from 250,000 to 500,000 deaths worldwide annually.

Their numbers exclude areas of flu pandemics and deaths linked to serious conditions like heart disease where a case of the flu can be the precipitating factor behind an individual’s earlier-than-expected death.

In addition, these numbers and where the flu-related deaths occur, is dependent upon the severity of the circulating flu strain says the study.

"These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority," said Dr. Joe Bresee, associate director for global health at the CDC's Influenza Division and a co-author of the study.

The Only Cold and Flu Guide You Will Ever Need This Season

So, who makes up the greatest proportion of flu-related deaths globally? According to the study, the most prevalent victims are people aged 75 and older and those who live in sub-Saharan Africa. Second in the globally disproportionate rankings were victims from Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asian countries.

But what about those of us living in the US and other more-developed countries where medical care and resources are relatively much more accessible to the common person?

As it turns out, health experts warn that this flu season is expected to be worse than usual based partly on what Australia has already experienced during its earlier 2017 winter flu season. Reports show that Australia had record numbers of flu-related hospitalizations and deaths this year with a vaccine that proved to be protective for only about 10 percent of those who had the vaccine and were exposed to the most common flu strain—the same vaccine and flu bug we are pitting against each other this season in our half of the hemisphere right now.

CDC warns 2017 flu season expected to be worse than last years’

Those Most at Risk This Flu Season

To be clear, according to the CDC, people need to understand that it’s not so much as the flu directly causing the death, but the potential complications for some that arise due to their bout with the flu. In other words, in fighting off the flu, the body’s immune system is weakened and although most people will shrug off the flu and other marauding infections that follow, others will fall victim to secondary complications such as bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus and ear infections. These victims tend to especially be people with chronic disease such as congestive heart failure and asthma or are already immune-compromised and taking medications.

Death from Cold or Flu Could Happen from Too Much of These Medications Taken Together

According to the CDC, here is a list of the groups of people who are more likely to get serious flu-related complications if they get sick with influenza and who should be closely monitored by doctors and families when the flu bug strikes:

People Especially at High Risk for Developing Flu-Related Complications

• Children 5 or younger, but especially those who are 2 years old or less.

• Senior adults 65 and older.

• Pregnant women and women who gave birth up to 2 weeks before viral exposure.

• Patients in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities.

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• American Indians and Alaskan natives.

People with Any of the Following Medical Conditions


Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury].

Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis).

Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease).

Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease).

Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus).

Kidney disorders

Liver disorders

Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders).

Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids).

People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy.

People with extreme obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 40 or more).

To help protect yourself and your family this flu season and not become another part of flu-death statistics, here’s What You Should Do Each Day When a Cold or Flu Hits.

If you are not sure what your relative risk is of dying from the flu due to extenuating health circumstances not listed above explicitly, now is the time to talk to your physician to ensure that you are taking all the measures necessary this flu season.

What are your thoughts about taking the flu vaccine this year? If you haven’t because you feel that you have a good reason not to, tell us about it in the comments section for this article.

References: CDC Newsroom “Seasonal flu death estimate increases worldwide”

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