The 2017- 2018 Flu Season Was the Deadliest In Four Decades, But Prompted Zero Shutdowns

Brittany M. Hughes | April 29, 2020
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Update: 4/30/20 a previous version of this article erroneously stated that the figures below reflected the number of flu-related deaths during the 2019-20 flu season. However, the figures below are from 2017-18. The article and headline have been updated to reflect that change.

As states across the nation lengthen COVID-19 shutdown restrictions and the White House continues to urge social distancing measures at the advice of health officials, the CDC that a record 80,000-plus Americans also died of a virus during the winter of 2017-18...but not from the coronavirus.

From the seasonal flu.

In fact, according to the reported numbers, that flu season was the deadliest since 1976, with far more fatalities than the 56,000 who died in 2011-12. In addition, more than 900,000 people were hospitalized with the virus.

Among those lost to the flu last year were 180 children, a record high for a non-pandemic flu season.

"The thing that was most notable about last year was how high in terms of activity things were," said Nordlund. She explained that last season, unlike previous seasons, flu did not strike one region of the country and then move across the land. "There were three consecutive weeks when the entire continental US was affected by flu at a very high level," she said.

While the flu season is measured from November through the end of March, with cases typically starting in one area of the country and then gradually spreading outward, CDC Spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said that this year, there was a higher concentration of flu cases nationally over one three-week span in January and February.

"There were three consecutive weeks when the entire continental U.S. was affected by flu at a very high level," she said.

Despite the high prevalence of flu cases, the record number of fatalities both among adults and children, and the concentrated outbreak across a short window of time, no economic shutdowns, social distancing mandates or store closures were mandated as a result of the seasonal flu.

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