• By Deborah Balzer

Infectious Diseases A-Z: Complications from the flu can be fatal

November 26, 2018

a child patient with IV line in hand sleep on hospital bed with an adult holding her hand for comfortThe 2018 flu season is expected to get active in the U.S. over the coming weeks. Health officials hope to avoid a repeat of the 2017 – 2018 season that affected 49 million Americans. "In the U.S. alone, last year 80,000 Americans died from influenza and its complications, and almost a million were hospitalized. That’s a huge burden of disease  – much of it preventable by flu vaccine," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

Most of the deaths were from flu complications. "The problem is that influenza can  lead to complications such as  sinusitis, pneumonia and meningitis," says Dr. Poland. "For people that have other medical conditions like heart disease, it can lead to complications such as a heart attack or a stroke. For diabetics, their diabetes can go out of control, and they end up with a whole host of complications. They end up hospitalized, and if you end up in the hospital with one of those complications, you have a quantifiable risk of dying as a result."

Watch: Dr. Gregory Poland discusses complications from the flu.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality sound bites with Dr. Gregory Poland are in the downloads at the end of the post. Please ‘Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network.’

"We prevent influenza to prevent not just respiratory symptoms, but all the downstream complications that can occur," says Dr. Poland.

An estimated 600 infants and children died of flu-associated illness last season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Approximately 80 percent of the deaths occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination.

Dr. Poland has a message for those hesitant to get the flu vaccine. "There is no evidence and no risk of getting influenza because of taking the flu shot. It is exactly the opposite. By getting the flu shot, you’re preventing the development of influenza."

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older who has not been vaccinated yet this season get vaccinated now.

 

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