Fox News has this article titled "Flu has killed 20K Americans including 136 children so far [as of March 2020] in this [2019-20] flu season, CDC says".

The CDC said that so far this season, 34 million people have gotten the flu, and about 20,000 have died.

Of those who died as of Feb. 29, 136 were children, the CDC said in its weekly flu report.

They link to the CDC's weekly flu report which, for the week ending February 29, 2020, which states (under "Key Points"):

CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 34 million flu illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths from flu.

Has the seasonal flu already killed 20,000 Americans during this season alone?


3 Answers 3


Fox News links to the CDC source which says:

CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 34 million flu illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths from flu.

By "season" they mean the 2019/2020 season. For data on past seasons, see here.

Note the illnesses vs deaths here which gives a mortality rate of 0.05%.

The usual mortality rate of influenza (excluding the common cold) is 0.1%. Hospitalization rate for the flu is around 1%.


The number of confirmed deaths due to influenza has been much less than 20,000 for the 2019-2020 flu season through March 5th 2020.

According the the US National Center for Health Statistics, the weekly data for influenza deaths so far this season (through the 8th week of 2020) is as follows:

Week       Deaths

 40 (2019)   16  
 41          16  
 42          18  
 43          30  
 44          31  
 45          29  
 46          39  
 47          49  
 48          65  
 49          94  
 50         106  
 51         122  
 52         180  
 1  (2020)  390  
 2          410  
 3          405  
 4          432  
 5          406  
 6          415  
 7          403  
 8          338  (data only 80% complete for this week)  

So about 4,100 so far.

NCHS collects death certificate data from state vital statistics offices for all deaths occurring in the United States. Pneumonia and influenza (P&I) deaths are identified based on ICD-10 multiple cause of death codes. NCHS surveillance data are aggregated by the week of death occurrence. To allow for collection of enough data to produce a stable P&I percentage, NCHS surveillance data are released one week after the week of death. The NCHS surveillance data are used to calculate the percent of all deaths occurring in a given week that had pneumonia and/or influenza listed as a cause of death.

However, as explained in this answer, modeling can be used to infer a higher number of deaths.


This Request For Correction (RFC) on the aspe.hhs.gov site gives detailed arguments that the CDC overestimates flu related deaths by uniquely bundling flu together with pneumonia, although there are other significant causes of pneumonia.

Its author identifies himself as "Kenneth Stoller, International Hyperbaric Medical Association".

Dr. Stoller begins as follows and continues with much detail which is worth reading and I am not sure of the appropriateness of copying it all here.

US data on influenza deaths are false and misleading. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) acknowledges a difference between flu death and flu associated death yet uses the terms interchangeably. Additionally, there are significant statistical incompatibilities between official estimates and national vital statistics data. Compounding these problems is a marketing of fear—a CDC communications strategy in which medical experts "predict dire outcomes" during flu seasons.


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