The United States experienced the deadliest flu season in more than four decades last year, according to a new report from the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Of the estimated 80,000 who died of flu and its complications, 180 were children. And approximately 80 percent of those deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination. The previous record high since the CDC began using its current surveillance procedures: 171 children.
Most — 90 percent — of the fatalities were in people over age 65.
A record 900,000 Americans were also estimated to be hospitalized, officials said at a National Foundation for Infectious Diseases news conference last week.
The outbreak claimed the lives of 150 in Georgia, including five children.
Though last year’s flu vaccine was about as effective (40 percent) at preventing infection as the prior season, the dominant strain of H3N2 flu caused unusually high mortality rates. Unlike previous influenza seasons with high mortality rates, last year’s was caused by a “normal” season, not by a new pandemic strain, though it’s important to note that the H3N2 strain is considered the most deadly of the four seasonal flu strains.
In recent years, the influenza vaccine’s effectiveness has varied between 19 to 60 percent.
But health experts continue to urge folks to get their flu shots. Even if the vaccine isn’t a perfect match, it can still help lessen the severity of the flu and reduce the potential for complications — and death.
More information about the flu vaccine:
What are the side effects of a flu shot?
Common mild side effects may include soreness or swelling, headaches, nausea, muscle aches and fever.
The injection can occasionally cause fainting, just like other injections.
When is the best time to get the flu shot?
It takes about two weeks after getting the shot for the vaccine to protect against influenza.
That’s why the CDC recommends people get vaccinated by the end of October, before the flu season starts to get bad.
However, if October has passed, it is still beneficial to get vaccinated, even into January or later.
How much does a flu shot cost and where can I get one?
Under the Affordable Care Act, most people with insurance who go to a health care provider covered by their plan should receive the flu vaccine for free.
But pharmacy chains, universities and other corporations have also started offering the vaccines either for free or at low costs.
Use the CDC’s Flu Vaccine Finder below to find a clinic near you. Just enter your ZIP code and hit “Go.”