Why do so many Americans get the flu?

While coronavirus has caused worldwide concern, the flu remains a threat that has already affected 19 million Americans this season.

The most common virus in America

Americans are more likely to get the flu than any other virus. This season alone there have been over 19 million cases of the flu in America. At least 180,000 of those led to hospitalization and 10,000 - 25,000 resulted in death. Globally, the flu death rate has gone up since the 1990s. While the flu has a readily accessible vaccine, only around 45% of adults in America were vaccinated during the 2018–19 flu season. The flu is much higher risk for people over 65, pregnant women and children under 5. The Centers for Disease Control shares, “Getting vaccinated isn’t just about keeping you healthy. It can also help to protect important people in your life who may be more vulnerable to becoming sick from flu — such as babies, older adults, and pregnant women.” The virus also mutates, and a flu vaccine cannot cover every variation.

Who is most vulnerable to the flu

Two types of flu are circulating, increasing risk. They seem to be producing fewer fatalities among older people, who typically comprise most of the deaths during flu season, but they are hitting children hard. The current season does not appear to be as severe as 2017-2018, when the flu reached epidemic proportions and as many as 95,000 people died, according to Centers for Disease Control estimates according to the Washington Post.

An early flu season

This flu season in the U.S. began earlier than usual. It started picking up in mid-November with a surge of influenza B, a strain that typically develops later in the cycle and hits children the hardest. More than half of all tests coming back positive for the flu this season have been in children and young adults under age 25, typically a healthier group of people…Because the elderly are the most likely to fall gravely ill and die from influenza, the rate of hospitalization and mortality remained well below average even as infection rates climbed…But an uptick in new flu infections began to appear over the past two weeks. The strain that’s emerging now is an H1N1 type of influenza A, the one that normally kicks off the season. It can take hold in adults and may be more severe, resulting in more deaths according to Bloomberg News.