Flu contributed to 145,000 deaths in 2017

An aggressive flu season in 2017 contributed to 145,000 global deaths, according to a recent study published by The Lancet. The high figure echoes early estimates of 80,000 flu deaths in the United States in the same year.

Influenza contributes to lower respiratory tract infections (LRTI) and other respiratory conditions. The Global Burden of Disease Study 2017 looked at LRTIs instances attributed to influenza.

The mortality rate was highest among adults 70 years of age and older, according to the report, with the highest prevalence of flu deaths across all ages in eastern Europe.

The illness caused an estimated 9.5 million hospitalizations during the year and more than 81.5 million hospital days. Of all LRTI episodes in 2017, 11.5 percent were attributable to influenza, the report found. Between 5 percent and 6 percent of total global LRTI deaths were linked to influenza.

While influenza remains a substantial contributor to the growing number of cases of LRTI, the flu pandemic reached its peak in 1918, when an estimated 20 million to 50 million people died of the illness.

“Although much of the public attention on influenza has [centered] around the global threat of a pandemic, and has rightly [emphasized] the potential effects of the virus in an increasingly interconnected global community, our results show that seasonal influenza contributes to a substantial burden of LRTIs,” the report reads.

The Lancet report was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.