Seasonal flu death estimate increases worldwide

New estimates suggest that the global death toll from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses each year is between 291,000 and 646,000 people. That figure is higher than a previous estimate of 250,000–500,000 deaths worldwide.

New estimates suggest that the global death toll from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses each year is between 291,000 and 646,000 people. That figure is higher than a previous estimate of 250,000–500,000 deaths worldwide. The new estimate, from a collaborative study by CDC and global health partners, excludes deaths during pandemics. "These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority," says Joe Bresee, MD, associate director for global health in CDC's Influenza Division and a study co-author. For the study, which included 47 countries, researchers calculated annual seasonal influenza-related respiratory deaths in 33 of those countries (57% of the world's population) that had death records and seasonal influenza surveillance data for at least 4 years between 1999 and 2015. Data from the other 14 countries was used to validate the estimates from the statistical models that were generated. The highest influenza mortality burden was seen in the world's poorest regions and among older adults. The highest rates of influenza-associated respiratory deaths were among individuals aged 75 years and older and those living in sub-Saharan African countries. "This work adds to a growing global understanding of the burden of influenza and populations at highest risk," says CDC researcher Danielle Iuliano, lead author of study, which was published in The Lancet. "It builds the evidence base for influenza vaccination programs in other countries." The researchers also note that the new estimates include only influenza-related respiratory deaths, and thus may underestimate the true global impact of seasonal influenza.