We’re all familiar with the symptoms that face us during flu season. Runny noses, headaches, puking; having the flu is never fun. But sometimes this seemingly harmless sickness can lead, in extreme cases, to death. Last year, unfortunately, the number of those cases was the highest in years, reaching over 80,000.
Last Year’s Flu Strain
We don’t see the same version of the flu every year; it changes, which makes vaccines difficult to plan for (especially since scientists have to decide which vaccine to use 6 months before flu season hits). But last year’s flu strain was the deadliest of the four typical strains we see from year to year.
What makes last year’s death toll even stranger, however, is that the strain of flu was still relatively normal. It wasn’t a new pandemic influenza strain, which is usually the cause of higher death tolls, but just one of the usual four strains that we see.
Typically, deaths caused by the flu are concentrated in older members of the population (people over the age of 65), and over 90% of the people who died from last year’s strain were in that age group. 180 of the victims, however, were infants, children, and teenagers.
This is the highest number of young people who have died from the flu since the CDC started using their current method of counting.
Vaccinate, Vaccinate, Vaccinate
This year, doctors and scientists alike are strongly encouraging everyone to get their flu shots, as they can help fight off the disease. Doctors are also fighting the myth that flu shots can cause people to contract the flu; this simply isn’t true.
While flu shots are typically only 40% effective at completely blocking the flu, the shots are incredibly important in preventing whatever version of the flu you might contract from developing into a deadlier disease. To prevent another 80,000 deaths this year, it’s important that everyone gets vaccinated.