The flu, also known as influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness. It is caused by viruses from the Orthomyxoviridae family that infect the throat, nose, bronchi, and in some cases, the lungs. This disease is usually associated with several mild symptoms, but flu statistics show that it may also lead to death in extreme cases.
This article answers important flu-related questions and arms you with vital information meant to help you keep your immune system in check. But first, let’s have a look at the top influenza-related facts and stats from the article!
Top 10 Flu Statistics and Facts
- The flu/influenza infection is not a common cold.
- The flu virus travels through the air as droplets.
- People with the flu are more contagious in the first three to four days.
- People from racial and ethnic minority groups are at higher risk of getting the flu.
- Flu activity in the US peaks between December and February.
- Between 5% and 20% of the US population gets infected by the flu virus each year.
- Getting a yearly flu vaccine can prevent influenza infection.
- In the Northern Hemisphere, flu shots should be taken in September or October.
- The flu shot may cause some mild side effects.
- Since 2010, flu has caused between 9 million and 45 million illnesses annually in the US.
General Influenza Statistics and Facts
1. The flu/influenza infection is not a common cold.
While they are both respiratory illnesses with similar symptoms, they are caused by different viruses. Also, the flu is more severe than a common cold, which doesn’t cause any severe health problems.
2. There are four types of influenza viruses.
They are known as influenza viruses A, B, C, and D. In the United States, viruses A and B cause epidemics every winter. Influenza C viruses cause a mild respiratory illness that is not considered an epidemic. Influenza viruses D are not known to have caused any human illnesses, as they majorly affect cattle.
3. Type A influenza viruses are more prevalent worldwide than type B.
According to 2019 influenza statistics, worldwide, type A viruses were responsible for the majority of influenza cases during seasonal epidemics. The type B flu is usually milder than influenza A and is less prevalent.
4. Flu viruses travel through the air as droplets.
They are released when someone with the flu talks, sneezes, or coughs. The virus then spreads when another person inhales these droplets directly or handles an object that the droplets landed on and transfers them to the nose, mouth, or eyes.
5. People infected with the flu virus are more contagious in the first three to four days after the illness begins.
However, one of the interesting facts about influenza that you should definitely know, is that some healthy adults may be able to spread the flu a full day before the symptoms develop and may remain contagious for up to seven days after becoming sick. Some people, particularly children and those with weakened immune systems, might stay infectious even longer.
6. The flu illness can come on suddenly.
According to the available flu facts, influenza may attack without warning and can spread to people six feet away. It is associated with fever, fatigue, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and headaches. Some people, especially children, may suffer more severe symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.
7. People from racial and ethnic minority groups are at a higher risk of getting the flu.
These groups include Latinos, non-Hispanic Native Americans, non-Hispanic blacks, and Hispanics. CDC flu facts show that between the 2009 and 2019 flu seasons, non-Hispanic black people had the highest flu-associated hospitalization rates, while non-Hispanic Asians had the lowest rate.
8. Flu activity in the US peaks between December and February.
Although the flu illness occurs throughout the year, studies show it is more common during the winter and fall. Influenza activity in the country begins to increase in October and typically lasts till May.
9. Between 5% to 20% of the US population gets infected by the flu virus each year.
This flu prevalence estimate was derived from a study that examined people with symptomatic and asymptomatic flu in the country. However, when only people with symptomatic flu were evaluated, the prevalence range was between 3% and 11%.
10. The flu costs the United States about $10.4 billion per year in direct medical expenses.
The influenza illness costs an estimated $16.3 billion in lost earnings each year. Flu stats show that it also causes employees to miss 17 million workdays, which leads to a loss of $7 billion due to the decreased productivity.
11. In 2018, the total funding by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) for pneumonia & influenza was $467 million.
Pneumonia and influenza funding by NIH was around $523 million in 2019 and was reduced to $453 billion in 2020.
Flu Vaccine Statistics and Facts: Prevention and Treatment
12. The flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray or an injection.
The most common way of making these vaccines is with the help of an egg-based process that has been used for over 70 years. They can also be made by using a cell-based production process or with recombinant technology.
13. The nasal spray should not be taken by people with a weakened immune system.
One of the flu vaccine facts that you should know if you are thinking about getting inoculated, is that the nasal spray variant contains a weakened live virus, making it unsuitable for pregnant women. It should also not be taken by those who are in close contact with someone with a weakened immune system, people younger than 2 or older than 50 years, and 2 to 4 years old children with asthma.
14. Getting a yearly flu vaccine can prevent influenza infection.
The CDC recommends annual flu shots for anyone older than 6 months. They can reduce the incidence of flu-related illnesses and the risk of complications that may cause hospitalization or death. It is also recommended that you take preventive actions like frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and staying away from infected people.
15. The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies from season to season.
Flu vaccine effectiveness statistics show that it is 40% to 60% effective during seasons when the circulating flu viruses are the ones actually targeted by the vaccine. The effectiveness also varies depending on the vaccine type, age, and risk groups.
16. In the Northern Hemisphere, flu shots should be taken between early September and late October.
Although the flu is around all year, it spreads easily in that period. Also, flu shot facts indicate that it takes 2 weeks for the flu vaccine antibodies to offer protection, which then fades over time. Thus, taking the vaccine before September may leave you more susceptible towards the end of the flu season.
17. The influenza vaccine can reduce the risk of flu-related death by 50% in children with underlying chronic medical conditions.
According to a 2017 study, flu vaccines can also reduce the risk of flu-associated deaths in healthy children by about two-thirds. Flu shot statistics from a 2018 study show that flu shots decreased the risk of severe instances of flu among adults, as vaccinated adults are 59% less likely to get hospitalized for serious flu-associated illness.
18. In the 2016-2017 flu season, the influenza vaccine prevented 5.3 million flu-related illnesses.
Reports show that vaccinations prevented 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 hospitalizations related to influenza in that season. In the 2017-2018 season, the vaccine decreased the overall risk of having to look for medical care at a physician’s office for flu by 40%.
19. Flu vaccination coverage in the US is falling short of national public health goals.
Flu statistics for 2020 show that the national public health goal for flu coverage for the year was 80%. However, in the 2017-2018 season, the flu vaccination coverage for children aged between 6 months and 17 years decreased from 59% in the previous season to 57.9%. Coverage for adults in that period also decreased by 6.2%, amounting to just 37.1%.
20. In 2019, 60% of US employers offered onsite seasonal flu vaccinations.
Flu statistics indicate that at least 58% of employers in that year offered a wellness program. About 43% of employers provided annual health risk assessments, and 24% offered preventive programs targeted at employees with chronic health conditions.
21. In the United States, flu vaccination is free if you have insurance.
Flu vaccination is a free preventive measure under the Medicare and Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliant policies. However, influenza facts show that people without insurance can get the flu shot for less than $50.
22. The flu shot may cause some mild side effects.
Even though this rarely happens, some people may experience short-term side effects such as redness, minor swelling, and tenderness at the injection site. Some even report experiencing nausea, lightheadedness, headache, muscle aches, and low-grade fever.
23. People with severe allergies to ingredients used in flu vaccines should avoid them.
According to influenza vaccination statistics, the flu vaccine may induce severe allergic reactions soon after receiving it. These reactions include fainting, rapid heartbeat, breathing problems, swelling of the lips or eyes, hives, wheezing, and hoarseness.
24. If you get sick with flu, it can be treated with antiviral drugs.
These drugs have to be prescribed by a physician, and they can cause the flu to become milder, potentially shortening your sick period by a couple of days. They also prevent flu complications that could otherwise lead to hospitalization.
25. Some foods such as garlic and broth can also aid in treating the flu.
As effective as a flu shot can be, certain foods can also speed up the treatment and help you feel better sooner when fighting this virus. This includes chicken soup, broth, garlic, leafy greens, broccoli, fruit rich in vitamin C, yogurt, and oatmeal. Processed and hard/crunchy foods should be avoided.
26. It is recommended that infected people remain at home for up to 24 hours after their fever subsides.
The CDC instructs that people with flu must stay away from school, work, public gatherings, social events, and traveling. Also, infected children and teenagers should not be given drugs like aspirin, as it may cause Reye’s syndrome.
Flu Death Statistics and Facts: Complications and Mortality
27. In some cases, influenza illness can escalate and cause several medical conditions such as pneumonia.
Flu complications may lead to sinus infections, ear infections, and bacterial pneumonia, and they can worsen chronic illnesses like diabetes and congestive heart failure. These complications may lead to hospitalization and cause death.
28. Older people aged over 65 are at a higher risk of developing flu complications.
Analysis of flu trends shows that children younger than age 5, particularly those younger than age 2, are also likely to develop complications. Other risky demographics include pregnant women, obese individuals, people with weakened immune systems, those with chronic illnesses like asthma, residents of nursing homes, etc.
29. In the United States, the flu virus has caused between 9 million and 45 million illnesses each year since 2010.
According to CDC flu stats, the influenza illness has caused between 140,000 and 810,000 annual hospitalizations since 2010. It has also caused between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually in the same period.
30. Flu-associated deaths are more likely to occur in older people.
Reports show that between 70% and 85% of deaths from seasonal flu-related illnesses occurred in people aged 65 and older. Also, between 50% and 70% of the seasonal flu-related hospitalizations occurred among people in the same age group.
31. The mortality rate by pneumonia and influenza is 14.9 per 100,000 population.
One of the more alarming, but also interesting facts about the flu that you can take away from this post is that pneumonia and influenza are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. However, this is still a drastic decrease from the year 1900, when they were the number one cause of death, killing 202 people out of 100,000.
32. The 2017-2018 flu season is considered one of the deadliest seasons in decades.
According to reports, over 900,000 people were hospitalized, and more than 80,000 people died from influenza in that season. About 70% of these hospitalizations and 58% of these deaths involved people over 65 years of age.
How long does the flu last?
It takes up to two weeks for the body to completely recover from the flu. The most severe symptoms occur during the first three days. While most of them will start to get weaker in the following days, dry cough and fatigue may linger. If the flu symptoms aren’t subsiding even after two weeks, visit your physician.
How long is the flu contagious?
The influenza illness makes most people contagious for up to seven days, with the first three or four being the riskiest. However, healthy adults may already be able to spread the flu a day before the symptoms even become obvious. Also, those with weakened immune systems and children might stay infectious longer.
When is the flu season?
In the United States, the flu is active throughout the year, but it is more common during the winter and fall. Its activity increases in October, peaks between December and February, and often lasts till May.
How to treat the flu?
To treat the flu, you must get plenty of rest by staying at home. This also reduces the spread of the illness. Infected people are advised to consume plenty of liquids, take pain relievers, and use anti-vomiting or anti-diarrhea medication when necessary. Your body naturally fights the flu on its own.
How long does stomach flu last?
The symptoms of gastroenteritis, also known as stomach flu, may persist for up to 10 days. Symptoms begin to appear one to three days after the infection sets in and may be mild or severe. In most cases, they will subside after two days.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
The flu usually comes with mild symptoms like fatigue, muscle pain, headaches, fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, congestion, breathing difficulties, dehydration, loss of appetite, flushing, sweating, nausea, etc. However, some people, especially children, may also suffer more severe symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting.
What to eat when you have the flu?
Certain foods can aid your body in fighting the flu. These foods include garlic, foods containing vitamin C, broccoli, leafy greens, chicken soup, broth, yogurt, and oatmeal. It is important to avoid hard and processed foods.
How to prevent the flu?
The easiest way to prevent the flu is by taking a flu vaccine every year. This vaccine is available as a nasal spray or as an injection. Depending on the season, the effectiveness of this vaccine is between 40% and 60%. You can also lower the odds of contracting flu by washing your hands frequently, covering sneezes and coughs, and staying away from infected people.
When to get a flu shot?
In the Northern Hemisphere, flu shots should be administered between early September and late October. This is because the flu spreads easily in that period, and it takes two weeks for the antibodies in the vaccine to offer protection. Since the protection fades over time, taking the vaccine before September would leave you more susceptible towards the end of the flu season.
What is the incubation period for the flu?
On average, it takes two days for people to start developing symptoms after getting infected with the flu. However, it varies from person to person, and it may range from one to four days.
How effective is the flu shot?
The flu shot’s effectiveness depends on the season, vaccine type, age, and risk groups. Studies show that the vaccine is 40% to 60% effective during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are matched with the flu vaccine.
How many people have died from the flu this year?
The numbers for the season 2020-2021 are not yet available, but according to reports from the CDC, between October 1, 2019, and April 4, 2020, there have been 24,000–62,000 flu-related deaths. In that period, there have been 39,000,000–56,000,000 flu illnesses, 18,000,000–26,000,000 medical visits and 410,000–740,000 hospitalizations.
How effective is the flu shot this year?
In the 2019-2020 flu season, the flu shot prevented about 7.5 million flu illnesses and 6,300 flu-related deaths. It also prevented 105,000 hospitalizations. Although the CDC is yet to come up with an estimate for the season 2020-2021, these numbers have been steadily increasing during the last couple of years.
How does the flu kill?
In most cases, the body kills itself while trying to heal itself. When the flu virus enters the body, it hijacks the cells in the nose and throat, making duplicates of itself. As a result, the immune system is triggered, and a vast amount of antibodies, white blood cells, and inflammatory molecules are sent to destroy the tissue hosting the virus.
If the immune system’s reaction is too strong, it will destroy too much tissue, stopping the lungs from delivering enough oxygen to the blood. This causes hypoxia and death. In other cases, the flu causes severe complications like pneumonia or heart inflammation, also potentially leading to death.
What strain of flu was going around in 2019?
The 2018-2019 flu season came in two waves. At the start of the season, A(H1N1) was the dominant circulating strain, and the flu vaccine produced matched it perfectly. It peaked at the end of December. A more virulent strain A(H3N2), which was circulating at low levels, increased sharply in mid-January and peaked at the beginning of March.
What percentage of the population will get the flu?
On average, 5% to 20% of the US population will be infected with the flu each year. The CDC reports that there have been 9.3 million to 45 million cases of flu annually in the US since 2010. During the same period, 140,000 to 810,000 people were hospitalized, and 12,000 to 61,000 have been killed each year by flu-related causes. On average, adults will be infected twice per decade while children will get the flu once every other year.
Flu is an airborne respiratory illness caused by viruses and can spread to people six feet away. It is associated with coughing, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, fever, and chills.
The prevalence of influenza in the US is high and it has caused thousands of deaths. While flu is active throughout the year, it peaks in the winter.
However, these flu statistics show that although influenza can lead to life-threatening medical conditions, it can be easily prevented with the flu vaccine, frequent hand washing, and staying away from infected people.