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80,000 Died During Last Year’s Flu Season, Early Vaccination Encouraged

October 01, 2018

Last week, Jerome Adams, MD, the U.S. Surgeon General, announced that an estimated 80,000 people—including 180 children—died during the 2017–2018 flu season. He also confirmed that 900,000 Americans were hospitalized due to last year’s flu. This marks the most seasonal flu deaths during more than a decade.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that flu season occurs during the fall (increasing during October) and winter, but can linger as long as May. Peak activity typically occurs between December and February.

According to the CDC, a flu shot is the single best protective measure against the flu, and everyone aged six months or older should be vaccinated. Additional benefits can include:

  • Reduced severity for those who are vaccinated but still get the flu
  • Increased flu prevention for expectant mothers and babies several months after birth
  • Reduced hospitalizations
  • Increased protection for others, especially those who are more vulnerable to severe illness (herd immunity)

Less than 40 percent of Americans were vaccinated by November 2017, a decrease from the previous year. More than 75 percent of health care professionals were vaccinated.

Michael J. Consuelos, MD, HAP’s senior vice president, clinical integration, underscored the power of vaccination in preventing the spread of flu this year.

“The single best thing we can do to prevent the spread of influenza is to get vaccinated. Those with concerns about a particular type of vaccination should talk to their provider and find the right method to protect themselves and others from the flu,” Dr. Consuelos said.

“Especially during the fall and winter months, everyone should practice good hygiene and handwashing to help prevent the spread of the flu and other illnesses. If you or a family member experiences flu symptoms, contact your provider immediately and stay home until you no longer are contagious.”

The CDC estimates that vaccine manufacturers will supply the U.S. with 163–168 million doses this flu season. Consumers are encouraged to contact their medical providers or local hospitals for more information about flu vaccination.

HAP’s clinical and emergency preparedness teams monitor the progress of flu season and work with Pennsylvania’s hospital community to assess key needs. For more information, contact Michael J. Consuelos, MD, or Mark Ross, HAP’s vice president, emergency preparedness.

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