Influenza in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Influenza, or the flu, is one of the most common infectious diseases in the world. Symptoms range from mild to severe, and include a sore throat, cough, runny nose, fever, headache, and muscle pains. Influenza spreads easily through coughs and sneezes and, although it goes away on its own, can cause more severe illness and even death among high risk populations, including the elderly, young children, and those with weakened immune systems or chronic illnesses. Influenza is also a common cause of pneumonia, and symptoms of both diseases are similar, with pneumonia being a more serious infection of the lungs and carrying a higher risk of death. Influenza outbreaks occur yearly around the world, with outbreaks in the United States usually occurring in late fall and winter. Flu symptoms can be treated with over-the-counter products, but the most effective way to prevent the flu is with a yearly flu vaccination. As of 2015, Mexico had the highest rates of flu vaccination among the elderly of any OECD country in the world, followed by South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

Influenza and pneumonia are some of the leading causes of death in the United States, accounting for around 15.2 deaths per 100,000 people in 2015. The flu is one of the leading health complaints in the U.S., with an estimated 86 percent of the population having knowledge of the disease and over 24.5 million cases during the 2015-2016 flu season. In that same year, influenza was responsible for over 11 million medical visits.

During flu season, many people take specific measures to prevent becoming sick with the flu. Some of the most popular prevention measures include washing hands regularly, drinking more water, and getting an annual flu shot. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the best way to prevent the flu is through vaccination. Despite this, only around 32 percent of adults aged 18 to 49 years received a flu vaccine during the 2015-2016 season. Rates of vaccination are much higher among older people and young children, as these populations are most at-risk of death from influenza. During the 2015-2016 flu season it was estimated that vaccinations reduced illnesses by 17 percent and reduced flu-related medical visits and hospitalizations by 18 and 19 percent respectively.

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