HOW MANY PEOPLE DIE EACH YEAR
AS A RESULT OF THE FLU?
By F. Edward Yazbak, MD, FAAP
For years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been
telling anyone who would listen: "Every year in the United States, on average:
5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000
people are hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 people die
from flu." (1)
It is not clear how the specific statistic - 36,000 American deaths a year
"on average" - was formulated or from what sources it was derived. It seems to
have just suddenly appeared, like a rabbit from a top hat. It certainly could
have been any other number of thousands of cases. After all, what are a few
thousand deaths up or down?
No one knows when the next number change will come but, when it does, it is
guaranteed to be an increase. Scaring people, especially old people, out of
their wits always sells vaccine and that seems to have become the CDC's main
Another well-kept secret is over how many years the influenza deaths were
"averaged." Did the CDC calculate "average deaths" from 2000 to 2004 or from
1980 to 2004?
To have 36,000 deaths "on average," there must be years with 26,000 deaths
and about the same number of years with 46,000 deaths and, not to belabor the
point, as many years with 16,000 deaths as with 56,000. At least, this is what
most people would think averaging and "on average" mean.
The past influenza season came and went very quietly because the CDC was busy
with dying birds in the Far East and Turkey. We will never find out where
exactly the most recent "deaths from flu" will fit on the curve, but it is a
good bet that 2005-2006 will not be, propaganda-wise, a "real good year."
Testifying before the committee on government reform of the U.S. House of
Representatives on Feb. 12, 2004, CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding, MD,
carefully stated that "CDC scientists estimate that an average of 36,000 people
die from influenza-related complications each year in the United States." (2)
It is not clear why the director made the distinction, while under oath,
between deaths from the flu and deaths from complications of the flu. A few
people, including this writer, think there is a distinct difference between the
two; many others do not think so.
To place the CDC influenza deaths in perspective, the U.S. lost 33,741
officers and enlisted men and women in Korean War battles from 1950 to 1953.
(3) And a special communication published by the Journal of the American
Medical Association (AMA) listed 43,000 deaths due to motor vehicle crashes and
29,000 involving firearms in the U.S. in 2000. (4)
The National Vital Statistics Report for 2001, published on Sept. 18, 2003
[Vol. 52, No. 3], was the last official U.S. government report on influenza
mortality before the CDC director's appearance at the February 2004
Congressional hearing. Certified figures about Influenza mortality [J10-J11]
were listed on page 31 of the report. (5)
There were, in all, 257 influenza deaths recorded in 2001
Of those, 13 deaths were under the age of 5; 50 were between 5 and 54; 21
from 55 to 64; 21 between 65 and 74; 56 from 75 to 84; and 96 were 85 years old
or older. Also in 2001, there were 61,777 official deaths due to pneumonia (J12-J18) of
which 48,686 (79 percent) were 75 years old or older. The same document (table 11, page 35) lists the reciprocal number of deaths per 100.000 population. In 2001, influenza-pneumonia deaths (J10-J18) amounted to 21.8 per 100.000 with influenza at 0.1 and pneumonia at 21.7.
With the U.S. population being around 284 million in 2001, it would seem that
the calculated number of 284 (0.1/100.000) deaths from influenza would be close
enough to the actual listed number of 257.
The following should be kept in mind:
"Pneumonia" is caused by bacteria, viruses and fungi. Elderly patients (75
years and over) who have laboratory confirmed influenza disease may develop
pneumonia but die from other underlying serious conditions, such as heart or
kidney failure to name just two [SEE YESTERDAY'S BLOG]. It is not known how many of the 48,686 elderly individuals who died in 2001 had received the influenza vaccine that year.
People of that age are usually vaccinated early in the season and certainly
more frequently than others. In the U.S., influenza/influenza-like illnesses
only occur during the flu season, a period of three months on average and
rarely four months. Pulmonary complications and specifically deaths due to
influenza will only occur during that short period, while other causes of
pneumonia deaths exist year-round.
Most people who have influenza-like illness, as the condition is fondly
referred to by the CDC, do not have influenza [SEE YESTERDAY'S BLOG]; only a small percentage of them are ever confirmed by culture or other accurate laboratory means. For the
period 2000-2005, influenza virus positive cultures were 11 to 18.9 percent of
the obtained cultures with a mean of 12.5 percent. It is well known that the
virus strains in the community may be different from those in the available
vaccine. Because immunity is strain-specific, vaccination in such cases is
essentially ineffective in preventing disease. The percent of antigenic match
between 2000 and 2005 varied from 11 to 63.2 percent with a mean of 54.2
percent. The maximum effectiveness of the vaccination effort, therefore, ranged
between 2.1 percent in 2003-2004 and 11.5 percent in 2002-2003 with a mean of
7.2 percent. (6)
Taking all these facts into consideration, it is safe to say that only a
small percentage of the 61,777 individuals who died of pneumonia in 2001
actually had influenza. Clearly, therefore, a large majority of individuals who
died that year of pneumonia did not die of influenza or influenza-related
In addition, the CDC figures clearly show that a large percentage of those
who died were elderly and, historically, the elderly, as a group, have always
been better vaccinated. As to the 257 individuals who were actually listed as
influenza deaths in the 2001 statistical report, the influenza virus was
actually identified in only 18 of them, the 18 classified as J10. (6)
Apparently in 2001, not even 257 people died of influenza or influenza-
The Monthly Vital Statistics Report of Sept. 17, 1981 sheds additional light
on the issue. Under pneumonia and influenza, the report states: "An estimated
52,720 deaths in 1980 were attributed to pneumonia and influenza. The age-
adjusted death rate for this cause increased about 14 percent from 11.1 per
100,000 population in 1979 to 12.6 in 1980, reflecting the influenza epidemics
in 1980 and the absence of one in the previous year. For pneumonia and
influenza, death rates increased for the age groups 35 years and over." (7)
The above statement by none other than the CDC suggests that around 1.5
deaths per 100,000 were or could have been attributed to influenza or influenza
complications in 1980, an epidemic year, when one would have expected a very
large number of cases and more severe illness and certainly in a period when
influenza vaccination was not as popular as it is now.
Considering that the U.S. population was around 226.5 million in 1980, 1.5
deaths per 100.000 would translate to around 4,000 deaths that year. So here we
have official CDC statistics listing around 4,000 deaths, unconfirmed by viral
cultures, from influenza and influenza-related complications in 1980, a banner
year, and maybe 18 or 257 in 2001 and the propaganda machine is still talking
about "an average of 36,000 deaths" a year.
(Neil Miller tells a SIMILAR STORY)
1. Key Facts about Influenza and the Influenza Vaccine, CDC.
Available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm
2. J.L. Gerberding. Protecting the Public's Health: CDC Influenza
Preparedness Efforts. Testimony before the Committee on Government Reform U.S.
House of Representatives, Feb. 12, 2004. Available at http://www.cdc.gov/washington/testimony/In2122004200.htm
3. America's Wars: U.S. Casualties and Veterans.
Available at http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0004615.html
4. A.H. Mokdad et al. Actual Causes of Death in the United States, 2000. JAMA. 2004; 291: 1238-1245. Available at http://jama.ama-assn.org/cgi/content/abstract/291/10/1238
5. E. Arias et al. Deaths: Final Data For 2001. National Vital Statistics
Reports. Volume 52, Number 3. Sept. 18, 2003.
Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr52/nvsr52_03.pdf
6. D.M. Ayoub, F.E. Yazbak. Influenza Vaccination During Pregnancy: A Critical Assessment of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. J. Am Phys Surg. 2006; 11(2): 41-47. Available at http://www.jpands.org/vol11no2/ayoub.pdf
7. Annual Report of Births, Deaths, Marriages and Divorces: United States
1980. Monthly Vital Statistics Report: Vol. 29, No.13. Sept. 17, 1981.
Available at http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/mvsr/supp/mv29_13