Last Flu Season Was Even Worse Than We Thought
By Sean Price

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Even at the time, Texas physicians understood that the 2017-18 flu season was one for the books. But nobody knew just how bad it was until Thursday, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new numbers.

Last winter, influenza and its complications killed more than 80,000 in the United States and hospitalized more than 900,000 — the highest totals for death and illness during a seasonal outbreak since CDC numbers on flu deaths were first reported in 1976. Previously, flu-related deaths had ranged from 12,000 in the 2011-12 season to the previous high of 56,000 in 2012-2013. The CDC figures are estimates based on statistical models.  

The 180 children who died in 2017-2018 was also a new record, beating the old one of 171 set in 2012-2013. The majority of them were unvaccinated, CDC said.  

In Texas, more than 11,000 people died from flu and its complications during the 2017-18 flu season, including 16 children, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) said.  

Even before Thursday's announcement, CDC had branded 2017-2018 a "high severity season" based on anecdotal evidence and the data that was available. There were several reasons for that severity but perhaps the biggest was that last year's vaccine was not effective against all the strains that appeared. In a typical flu season, flu vaccine can be up to 40- to 60-percent effective. The 2017-18 vaccine was 36-percent effective, one CDC study found.   

Texas Medicine magazine's October issue has a more in-depth story on the hows and whys of last year's flu season — and some insight on whether this year's season will be better. 

Last Updated On

October 19, 2018

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Sean Price

Reporter

(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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