39 Flu Statistics & Facts to Be More Prepared in 2021

Flu Statistics

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. It’s caused by viruses infecting the nose, throat, and lungs (in more serious cases). Flu statistics show that a person with the flu is most contagious in the first 3–4 days of the illness. 

Influenza viruses travel through the air in small droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or talks. So another person can inhale those viruses or pick them up from an object and then transfer them into their eyes, mouth, and nose.

Top 10 Flu Statistics for 2021 

  • The usual recovery period from influenza is seven days.
  • 20% to 30% of people with the flu virus don’t experience influenza symptoms.
  • Since 2010, there have been 12,000–61,000 deaths per year due to influenza.
  • 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu every year, as per flu statistics.
  • The flu causes 31.4 million outpatient visits in the US.
  • According to the CDC, almost 61 million people in the US were infected by swine flu.
  • 40% of the US navy got the Spanish flu.
  • The 2009 pandemic marked the highest number of children’s deaths—358.
  • There were 616 recorded bird flu deaths until 2019 worldwide.
  • The global mortality rate of COVID-19 is 3.4%. In comparison, seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those infected every year.

Crucial Flu Statistics and Facts

Flu symptoms can start abruptly, with the flu being contagious even before symptoms start. While most of us are knowledgeable about this respiratory illness, there is still a lot to learn. Make sure you read the following section to find out more. 

Source: Statista

1. Influenza statistics worldwide report that every year, there are a billion cases of the flu.

(WHO)

What’s more, from three to five million of them are severe flu cases. Flu statistics from 2019 reveal there were approximately 290,000–650,000 respiratory deaths due to influenza. Generally speaking, influenza is a global health threat. 

2. Influenza statistics uncover that over 900,000 people were hospitalized due to the flu in 2018.

(CDC)

According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention, flu vaccines prevent tens of thousands of hospitalizations every year. Moreover, a study has shown that vaccination reduces the risk of flu-related death by 52% for children with high-risk medical conditions and by 65% among healthy children. 

3. 5% to 20% of Americans get the flu every year, as per flu statistics.

(Lung)

The flu can cause mild to severe illness, and it may even lead to hospitalization or death. The symptoms are similar to those of the common cold, only they last longer and are usually worse. Also, some of its complications include pneumonia, dehydration, ear or sinus infections, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, like diabetes, asthma, or congestive heart failure. 

4. Statistics on the flu suggest that 9.3–49 million illnesses are caused by the flu annually in the US.

(AFC)

Since 2010, there have been between 140,000 and 960,000 hospitalizations. Also, between 12,000 and 79,000 people have died each year since 2010, based on the flu death rate data. 

Even though some people think they could get the flu from the flu shot, that’s not true. While some people experience side effects, like soreness, swelling, muscle aches, and fever after a day or two of getting the shot, that isn’t the flu.  

5. The flu causes 31.4 million outpatient visits in the US. 

(Health.mil)

Stats on the death rate of the flu confirm that during the 2017–2018 flu season, about 185 children died, of which somewhere around 80% hadn’t received a vaccination. Also, approximately 40% of people in the US got a flu vaccine, preventing approximately 7 million flu illnesses and 8,000 deaths. 

6. The 2020 flu statistics affirm that the estimated annual cost of the flu is $10.4 million.

(Smarter Investing)

And this is just the number denoting medical expenses. There’s also $16 billion in overall lost earnings. Generally speaking, every year, the flu is responsible for considerable mortality and productivity loss in the US.

7. 200,000 Americans are hospitalized every year due to flu-related illnesses.

(WebMD)

This leads to higher costs of hospitalizations and outpatient doctor visits. It usually takes 3–7 days for a person to get better, but there might be some complications. Statistics on the mortality rate of the flu note that 8,200–20,000 people die from complications caused by the flu. That’s why vaccination is recommended. In fact, the youngest age for which CDC recommends a flu shot is six months. 

8. The flu-related fevers go from 100°F to 104°F, according to the influenza facts.

(Healthline)

It’s also very common for children to have higher fever than adults. Other flu symptoms include a dry, persistent cough, headaches or migraines, fatigue, sneezing, a runny and stuffy nose, and muscle pains in the neck, back, arms, and legs. Although the symptoms of the flu are similar to cold symptoms, the symptoms of the flu are more serious.

9. The usual recovery period from influenza is seven days.

(Healthline)

As claimed in our flu season statistics, the cough and fatigue may last for up to two weeks, but generally, people feel better after a week. Of course, you should consult your doctor before going back to work, school, or gym, and you should postpone all your social interaction for at least 24 hours after your fever’s gone.

Types of Influenza: Statistics

The only influenza viruses which can cause the flu pandemics are Influenza A viruses. As a matter of fact, a pandemic occurs when a new and different influenza A virus appears, affecting people with the ability to spread it efficiently among themselves. Now, let’s discover more from this section. 

10. CDC flu facts state that there are four types of the flu.

(CDC)

Influenza A and influenza B are the types of viruses that strike humans. They usually cause seasonal epidemics every year in the US. Other facts about the flu show that there’s also influenza C, a type of virus that strikes humans, but it doesn’t cause epidemics—it only causes a mild respiratory illness. Meanwhile, influenza D is the type of virus that primarily strikes cattle and doesn’t affect people.

11. Swine flu (N1H1) was first discovered in 2009.

(Verywell Health)

In 2009, a 10-year-old girl from California was diagnosed with swine flu. According to the swine flu facts, this is a type A virus that usually affects pigs, not humans. Notably, it was a combination of swine, bird, and human viruses mixed in pigs and spread to humans. Today, swine flu is considered a regular seasonal flu, and there’s a flu shot that helps prevent it.

12. According to the CDC, almost 61 million people in the US were infected by swine flu.

(Verywell Health)

Stats on the swine flu death rate reveal that it killed 12,469 people in the US alone. And around the world, about 575,400 people lost their lives due to swine flu. It was declared a global pandemic in June 2009 by the WHO and was over in August 2010. 

13. The mortality rate of avian flu is 60%, based on the flu fatality rate statistics.

(WHO)

Avian influenza, also known as avian flu or bird flu, is a type of virus that causes a highly infectious respiratory illness in birds. Be that as it may, avian bird flu facts affirm that sometimes this virus (H1H5) affects humans, too. However, it’s very hard to spread the virus from one individual to another. 

14. There were eight million cases of bird flu in the US in 2015.

(CNN)

There were also five million infected hens in a commercial laying facility that had to be euthanized to prevent the virus from spreading to humans. The United States Department of Agriculture stated that there were no human victims of the H5N2 strain.

15. There were 616 recorded bird flu deaths until 2019 worldwide.

(CNN)

Various strains of bird flu have been discovered. For instance, there are 16 subtypes of the H strain and nine subtypes of the N strain, but only H5, H7, and H10 have caused death in humans. Since 2013, there have been 1,568 cases in the US.

Coronavirus vs. the Flu Statistics

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been hearing about COVID resembling the flu. Multiple testimonials and studies have proven that coronavirus is of a different nature despite some of its symptoms overlapping with those of the flu. Read on to learn more.

16. COVID-19 has caused 2.9 million deaths worldwide, while the flu causes 290,000–650,000 deaths each year. 

(WHO) (Hopkins Medicine)

Now, let’s look into coronavirus death rate vs. the flu. In the US alone, over 560,000 people have died due to COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted people rapidly, and as a new virus causes the disease, most people aren’t immune to it yet. 

17. The global mortality rate of COVID-19 is 3.4%. In comparison, seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those infected every year.

(New York Times)

So, data on coronavirus mortality rate vs. the flu uncovers that COVID-19 is deadlier than the flu. Moreover, the 1918 flu also had an unusual death rate—about 2%. In terms of virus transmission, coronavirus vs. the flu statistics find that a COVID-19 patient most probably infects 2.2 other people, on average, and the seasonal flu—1.3. 

18. Coronavirus and the flu share some symptoms. 

(Mayo Clinic)

Both spread in similar ways—between people who are closer than six feet, through talking, coughing, or sneezing. Also, some of the overlapping symptoms include sore throat, cough, fever, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, nausea or vomiting, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing.

The Flu Shot Facts and Stats

Influenza vaccines, commonly known as flu shots, or flu jabs, protect against influenza viruses’ infection. Notably, new versions are developed twice a year since the influenza virus changes constantly. 

What might also protect you during the flu season is taking zinc and magnesium, drinking plenty of liquids, as well as supplementing vitamin D, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Don’t miss out on this section as we go into more detail. 

19. The flu shot prevented 5.3 million illnesses during the 2016–2017 flu season, flu shot statistics show.

(AxessPointe)

The flu is particularly dangerous to infants under six months, people over 65 and those in long-term care facilities, people with weakened immune systems, those with BMI over 40, pregnant and new post-partum moms, Native Americans, and people with asthma, diabetes, and heart disease

Flu vaccine facts assure that the best possible way to protect yourself is by getting a flu shot. By getting the shot, you will protect yourself as well as those around you.

20. Flu vaccine statistics show that flu shots prevented 85,000 hospitalizations in 2016–2017.

(AxessPointe) (CDC)

There are two most important factors for determining the likelihood of the flu vaccine success. The first factor includes the characteristics of the person being vaccinated, like their age and health. The second one is the similarity between the flu virus that the vaccine should protect against and the flu virus that is spreading in the community at that particular time, the flu facts remark

21. The flu vaccine also prevented 2.6 million medical visits during the 2016–2017 flu season.

(AxessPointe) (CDC)

Although the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, it prevents millions of medical visits during each flu season, and it’s still the best prevention against the flu. Statistics on the flu shot success rate break the news that the flu shot reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40% to 60%.

22. 59% of vaccinated adults are less likely to get a severe illness from the flu.

(Healthline)

Influenza vaccination statistics remark that, among adults admitted to the hospital because of the flu, vaccinated people were less likely to end in ICU with a severe illness. Nationwide, flu shot coverage for children between six months to 17 years old has remained the same in the last few seasons, but it has decreased by 6.2% for adults. 

23. In the 2018–2019 flu season, 49.2% of people over six months old got a flu vaccine. 

(USA Facts)

That is the highest number since 2009–2010. That said, it’s below the 70% target set by the Department of Health and Human Services. Historically, children have been more likely to be vaccinated compared to adults. For instance, flu vaccine statistics note that during the 2018–2019 season, 45.3% of adults and 62.6% of children between six months and 17 years old got a flu vaccine.

24. The flu vaccine reduced the H1N1 infection risk by 62% among children in the 2018–2019 flu season.

(Time)

The predominant flu that season was H1N1, which is easily targeted by the flu vaccine. As claimed by the flu shot statistics, the flu vaccine decreased the risk of infection by 46% among adults. All in all, the effectiveness of the vaccine contributed to a milder flu season.

25. 20% to 30% of people with the flu virus don’t experience influenza symptoms.

(Harvard Medical School)

It’s just a myth that a person who feels fine can’t spread the virus, as the flu mutation rate accelerates every year, so you don’t have to feel the symptoms to have the flu. That’s why it’s vital to get the flu shot regularly and build immunity to new strains of the virus that can cause a flu outbreak.

The Flu Deaths Statistics

It has been estimated that seasonal flu kills 0.1% of those infected every year. Now, we suggest that you acquaint yourself with the data on which flu seasons were the mildest and which ones were the deadliest. 

26. As for the flu deaths per year, charts reveal that the lowest number of deaths was recorded in 2019–2020.

(Statista)

Namely, 22,000 deaths occurred that year. In 2015–2016, the number of flu deaths was almost as low—23,000. Then, 2018–2019 marked 34,000 deaths, and both 2016–2017 and 2013–2014 saw 38,000 death cases. There were 43,000 flu deaths in 2012–2013, 51,000 in 2014–2015, with the highest number of flu deaths recorded in 2017–2018. 

27. Since 2010, there have been 12,000–61,000 deaths per year due to influenza.

(CDC)

Even though the flu impact varies, it puts a significant burden on the people’s health in the US every year. According to CDC’s flu statistics from 2020, influenza caused 9–45 million illnesses and 140,000–810,000 hospitalizations. 

28. In 2018, more than 80,000 people died from the flu in the US.

(CDC)

That year’s flu season brought us some record-breaking numbers, emphasizing the severity of the flu and reminding us of the importance of flu vaccination. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) started a flu shot campaign to raise awareness.

29. The 2009 pandemic marked the highest number of children’s deaths—358.

(CDC)

The number of children’s deaths in the 2017–2018 flu season outreached the previous peak (the flu season 2012–2013) of total pediatric flu deaths, statistics reveal. In fact, with the exception of the 2009 pandemic, the pediatric deaths associated with the flu have been carefully evaluated since 2004. In other words, the totals ranged from 37 in the 2011–2012 season to 186 during the 2017–2018 season. 

30. Stats on the flu deaths for 2019 in the USA showed 22,000 flu deaths in the 2019–2020 season.

(CDC)

At that time, there were 38 million illnesses in the US. The flu deaths for 2019 were significantly reduced, considering the number of medical visits (18 million) and hospitalizations (405,000). Compared to the 2017–2018 season, the flu prevalence in 2019–2020 was higher among young children (0–4 years) and adults (18–49 years).

Deadly Spanish Flu Facts and Stats

This Spanish flu was a deadly influenza pandemic caused by the H1N1 influenza A virus. It lasted from 1918 to 1919. Overall, 500 million people got infected, and the death toll was somewhere between 20 and 50 million people. Read more about it in the following section.

31. 1918’s Spanish flu pandemic was the deadliest in the world, according to Spanish flu facts.

(History)

Around 500 million people around the world were infected, which was, at that time, one-third of the world’s population. Spanish flu outbreaks were first observed in Europe, the US, and parts of Asia, and from there, the flu spread to other parts of the world. At that time, there were no flu shots or effective medicines to kill the virus, so people were instructed to wear masks. As the flu death statistics show, there were between 20 and 50 million deaths. The Spanish flu is known by this name because Spain suffered the greatest loss.

32. Stats on the flu death rate for the US disclose that 675,000 Americans died during the Spanish flu.

(History)

Businesses, schools, and theaters were shuttered, and bodies piled up in various improvised morgues. Additionally, the New York City health commissioner ordered businesses to open and close in shifts to avoid overcrowding in the subways and slow influenza’s transmission.

33. More US soldiers died from the Spanish flu than they did on the battlefield, the flu stats report.

(History)

The most unusual part of the Spanish flu is how many young and healthy people it killed, the group normally impervious to this type of virus. Although the deaths caused by the Spanish flu are estimated at 20–50 million people, it’s been debated that the number is much higher. For instance, some even think that around 100 million people died due to that flu outbreak. Of course, it’s impossible to know the precise number due to a lack of medical record-keeping in many places. 

34. 40% of the US navy got the Spanish flu.

(History)

As other interesting facts about influenza show, somewhere around 36% of the US army became ill. In fact, traveling by ship and in overcrowded trains helped the virus spread, so very few locations in the world remained unaffected by the Spanish virus.

35. The Spanish flu pandemic ended by the summer of 1919.

(History)

Since then, there have been several flu pandemics, but no other was as deadly as the Spanish flu. Notably, about 70,000 people in the US were killed by the 1957–1958 flu pandemic, the flu statistics reveal. Overall, that pandemic killed around two million people around the world. As for the 1968–1969 flu pandemic, it killed 34,000 people in the US and around one million people worldwide. In the more recent swine flu pandemic, more than 12,000 people in the US lost their lives.

Other Interesting Facts About the Flu

Now, time to browse through some of the most interesting facts about the flu. For instance, did you know that many people turn to essential oils to fight the flu? Find out more about people’s beliefs and history of the illness below. 

36. The word “influenza” was used for the first time in English in 1703.

(Merriam-Webster) (Influenza Virus Net)

Influenza is the Italian word for ‘’influence,” and it refers to the cause of the illness. Believe it or not, fun facts about the flu reveal that back in the past, people believed that the stars influenced the flu. Moreover, the original phrase was influenza del freddo, which means “influence of the cold,” but it was modified as the medical thought changed.

37. The first documented flu pandemic was in 1580.

(PBS)

However, medical historians think large-scale influenza outbreaks which occurred in 1510 and 1557 might have been pandemics. The one in 1580 devastated cities in Spain, killing around one out of every ten residents, according to stats on the death rate of the flu. Moreover, it caused approximately 8,000 deaths in Rome. 

38. Over the last century, the world has seen four major flu pandemics.

(Good Housekeeping) (NLB Mobile)

We’ve already mentioned the Spanish flu pandemic from 1918, but there were three more. The Asian flu lasted from 1957–1958, the Hong Kong flu lasted during 1968, and the most recent swine flu pandemic (H1N1) took place in 2009. Notably, stats on flu deaths per year worldwide have confirmed that the Spanish flu remains the most dangerous, with over 20 million deaths around the world.

39. Whiskey was prescribed as a cure during the Spanish flu pandemic.

(History)

However, there was a problem—more than half of the states had passed Prohibition laws by then, which made alcohol difficult and sometimes impossible to get legally. Interestingly, physicians thought alcohol stimulated the respiratory system and heart of patients who were weakened by illness.

The Bottom Line

The flu can develop suddenly, without warning. That’s why it’s important to know the flu statistics and facts to help your loved ones or yourself if influenza strikes. So remember all the details and advice, and contact your doctor if you recognize any flu symptoms—even if you only suspect you might have caught the virus. 

Also, don’t take antibiotics; the flu is a virus, and antibiotics are effective only against infections caused by bacteria. In brief, get ready for the upcoming flu season by taking care of your hygiene, drinking lots of liquids, and eating vitamin-rich foods. All things considered, prevention is the best protection against the flu.

FAQs

When is the flu season?

In the US, the flu season runs from October to May, and the highest number of influenza cases are recorded from late December through early March. Generally, influenza season coincides with cold weather, so people often believe exposure to the cold causes the flu. However, this is just a myth since the flu is caused by a virus.

How long is the flu contagious?

Most commonly, people with the flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after getting ill. CDC flu stats remark that some otherwise healthy adults can infect others even a day before the symptoms develop and up to a week after becoming sick. Then again, young children and people with weakened immune systems can infect others for an even longer time.

What percentage of the population will get the flu?

According to some estimates, that percentage is 5%–20%, and according to others, it is 3%–11%. The former estimates are based on both symptomatic and asymptomatic cases, while the latter refer to only symptomatic cases.

When to get a flu shot?

The best time for immunization is early in the flu season. The CDC recommends that adults and children older than six months old get vaccinated by the end of October. However, even if you wait until after October, you should get the vaccine, as it will protect you for the rest of the flu season.

How does the flu start?

When a person gets the flu, it might feel like a common cold. In other words, a person has a runny nose and sore throat. They might also start sneezing. While the flu comes suddenly, the cold develops slowly. The flu’s symptoms are also more severe. All in all, most people treat themselves at home, but others have to see a doctor.

When does flu season end?

Even though there are regional differences, generally, the flu season begins in October, peaks from December to February, and lasts until May. Given that, there are several factors why the flu is worse in the fall and winter. That is to say that the virus prefers cold and dry weather since its viral capsule survives better in those conditions. Also, people tend to spend more time indoors in the fall and winter, making it easier for the virus to spread among people.

What is the incubation period for the flu?

People usually get the flu through the air from the infected person’s respiratory tract when they talk, sneeze, or cough. It can also be transmitted by touching a surface with respiratory droplets with viruses and then touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. Generally speaking, the flu incubation period is usually two days but can range 1–4 days, according to the flu statistics.

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