How many people die of flu every year?

AROUND 17,000 people die of the flu every year in England, data from Public Health England (PHE) shows.

Seasonal flu is a major killer and contributes to a rise in mortality rates in the colder, winter months.

Deaths caused by the flu and related conditions differ year on year


Deaths caused by the flu and related conditions differ year on year Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Flu-related conditions liked pneumonia are some of the biggest killers during the winter.

Pneumonia causes a build-up of fluid and swelling on the lungs and causes 30,000 deaths in the UK each year, the British Lung Foundation has previously stated.

So far in the UK over 42,000 people have died from the virus and cases are continuing to rise across the country.

Including pneumonia into the total deaths caused by seasonal influenza would likely see this pushed above deaths caused by Covid-19.

Today it was reported that flu has killed ten times more people Brits than coronavirus last week for 14th week in a row.

Data from the Office for National Statistics stated that 14 per cent of deaths registered in England and Wales in the week ending September 18 were caused by flu and pneumonia.

By comparison, Covid-19 accounted for 1.5 per cent of all deaths – a total of 139 fatalities.

Figures from the ONS show the number of deaths where influenza, pneumonia or Covid-19 are mentioned on the death certificate

The World Health Organisation (WHO) states: “Advanced age increases the incidence of and the mortality from pneumonia.

“Comorbidity and a diminished immune response and defence against aspiration increase the risk of bacterial pneumonia.”

The WHO also states that globally, between 290,000 and 650,000 people die of respiratory deaths each year which are associated with seasonal influenza.

Data from PHE shows that on average, between 2014/15 to 2018/19, 17,000 people died from the flu in England.

Yearly deaths vary widely between highs of 28,330 in 2014/2015 and lows of 1,692 in 2018/19.



During the summer PHE published updated figures for 2018/19 which showed that a total of 3,966 flu deaths occurred during that period.

This puts the average at around 15,000.

A spokesperson from PHE said the number of deaths from flu cases varies every year.

“The average number of estimated deaths in England for the last five seasons (2015/16 to 2019/20) was over 11,000 deaths annually.

“This ranged from almost 4,000 deaths in 2018/19 to over 22,000 deaths in 2017/18.

“Of these deaths, many were in people with underlying conditions.”

Experts have previously warned that symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to the flu and have urged people to get tested if they experience symptoms such as a new persistent cough, a high temperature or a loss of taste and smell.

A&E doctor and former Love Island contestant Dr Alex George previously told The Sun that people of all ages should be wary of the flu.

He said: “Over the winter months it’s much more prevalent as we are closer together.

The graph above shows the difference between a cold, flu and Covid-19
The graph above shows the difference between a cold, flu and Covid-19

“Around 17,000 people a year die from the flu and while it’s more common in the elderly and vulnerable, it can happen at any age.”

Each year PHE releases an annual flu report.

The most recent report for winter 2019/2020 states that low levels of influenza activity were observed in the community.

The report, which was published in June this year stated: “Activity started
to increase from week 47, 2019, with the length and peak of activity in general practice varying across the UK, reaching low levels in England, and medium levels in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales.”

The report also found that uptake of the flu vaccine was higher last year in England, with 72.4 per cent of those over the age of 65 having the jab, this was up from 72.0 per cent the year before.

However uptake was lower in children under the age of six months and pregnant women.

What is the flu?

The NHS states the signs of flu include:

  • a sudden fever – a temperature of 38C or above
  • an aching body
  • feeling tired or exhausted
  • a dry cough
  • a sore throat
  • a headache
  • difficulty sleeping
  • loss of appetite
  • diarrhoea or tummy pain
  • feeling sick or being sick

In order to ease the pressure on the NHS, the government previously stated it will provide 30 million flu jabs in order to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

Dr Alex added that parents need to be aware that their kids can get the flu too.

“It’s important that we encourage people to go and get the vaccine, it really can help.

“People think the cold and flu can overlap but the cold is caused by a group of viruses that affect the nose”.

He added that the flu is caused by influenza viruses that can hit both young kids and adults.

Dr Alex said: “In A&E young people are coming in very sick with the flu, it’s not just for the elderly, one in ten people don’t realise that you can actually die from the flu, so it’s something that needs to be taken seriously”.

How effective is the flu jab in preventing illness?


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