Eighty thousand people died from the flu last year — that’s more than the number of people killed in car accidents, gun violence, or opioid overdoses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to get flu shots early this year, especially those who are vulnerable or those with weakened immune systems including pregnant women, children, and older adults.
The new data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said last year was the deadliest flu season in more than four decades. Flu experts knew it was going to be a bad season, but the tally was nearly twice the estimate health officials originally projected.
The high mortality rate last winter was driven by a type of flu that tends to land more people in the hospital and cause more deaths. Making the situation worse, the flu vaccine didn’t work very well.
Despite the limitations of some years of the vaccine, “some effectiveness is better than no effectiveness,” according to Surgeon General Jerome Adams.
Adams said people have a “social responsibility” to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their communities.
In recent years, flu related deaths have ranged from around 12,000 to — the next worse years — 56,000, according to the CDC.
The flu season peaked last year in early February and was over by the end of March.
The timing and severity of the flu season varies every year and depends on the predominate strains that circulate. Some seasons are milder, while others take off. The 1918 flu pandemic killed more than 675,000 Americans over the course of about two years, historians estimate.
Last year’s flu season is the worst on record since the winter of 1976-1977.
According to USAToday.com, vaccine makers are expected to make 163 to 168 million doses of the vaccine. People can get vaccines at their doctor’s office, chain pharmacies, community health centers, employer vaccine days and other drives held elsewhere.
Fatal complications of the flu can include pneumonia, stroke, and heart attack.
Adams recommended that people go beyond getting a flu shot and take other steps to prevent getting and spreading the flu including frequently washing hands, coughing into a tissue, and staying home from school or work when sick.