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I think recently I read the figure 50,000 dying from it in the US in one year?..and up to half a million world wide per year?
Surely that figure for the US isn't correct? How many death certificates per year read cause of death, influenza?
The number of seasonal influenza-associated (i.e., seasonal flu-related) deaths varies from year to year because flu seasons are unpredictable and often fluctuate in length and severity.
Therefore, a single estimate cannot be used to summarize influenza-associated deaths. Instead, a range of estimated deaths is a better way to represent the variability and unpredictability of flu.
CDC estimates that from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
The CDC's decision to play up flu deaths dates back a decade, when it realized the public wasn't following its advice on the flu vaccine. During the 2003 flu season "the manufacturers were telling us that they weren't receiving a lot of orders for vaccine,"Dr. Glen Nowak, associate director for communications at CDC's National Immunization Program, told National Public Radio. "It really did look like we needed to do something to encourage people to get a flu shot."
"U.S. data on influenza deaths are a mess," states a 2005 article in the British Medical Journal entitled "Are U.S. flu death figures more PR than science?" This article takes issue with the 36,000 flu-death figure commonly claimed, and with describing "influenza/pneumonia" as the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S.