FACT CHECK: Did The Flu Kill 80,000 People In The US In 2019?

Brad Sylvester | Fact Check Editor

A viral Facebook post claims 80,000 people died from the flu in the United States in 2019.

Verdict: False

In the 2018-2019 flu season, about 34,200 people died from the flu in the United States, according to a preliminary estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fact Check:

The CDC uses a mathematical model to retroactively estimate the number of flu-associated deaths during flu seasons, which roughly run from October to March. It looks at both in-hospital death data and death certificates to make the estimate, according to the CDC website.

The April 21 post claims that the flu “killed 80,000 people in the U.S. last year,” presumably referencing the 2018-2019 flu season. (RELATED: Did The 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic Kill 18,000 Americans?)

But this statistic is inaccurate. The CDC estimated about 34,200 people died from the flu in the 2018-2019 flu season, with the uncertainty interval indicating the range could be as low as about 26,300 and as high as about 52,700 deaths. Mike Patronik, a spokesman for the CDC, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the estimate is preliminary and “may change as data are finalized.”

The death figure cited in the post appears to come from the preliminary estimate that the CDC gave in September 2018 for the 2017-2018 flu season. The CDC said at the time that early estimates indicated “more than 80,000 people died from the flu last season.”

However, the CDC has since updated its 2017-2018 flu season estimate to a lower number: about 61,000 deaths. That figure, which is still preliminary, has an uncertainty interval ranging from roughly 46,400 to 95,000 flu deaths, according to CDC data.

There have been 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths in the United States during the 2019-2020 flu season, per a preliminary estimate from the CDC.

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Brad Sylvester

Fact Check Editor
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