Up to 650 000 people die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year

Up to 650 000 deaths annually are associated with respiratory diseases from seasonal influenza, according to new estimates by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), the World Health Organization and global health partners.

This marks an increase on the previous global estimate of 250 000 500 000, which dates from over ten years ago and covered all influenza-related deaths, including cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The new figures of 290 000 650 000 deaths are based on more recent data from a larger, more diverse group of countries, including lower middle income countries, and exclude deaths from non-respiratory diseases.

These figures indicate the high burden of influenza and its substantial social and economic cost to the world, said Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director of WHOs Health Emergencies Programme. They highlight the importance of influenza prevention for seasonal epidemics, as well as preparedness for pandemics.

The estimates take into account findings from recent influenza respiratory mortality studies, including a study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), published in The Lancet on Thursday (14 December).