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AKIPRESS.COM - Up to 650 000 deaths annually are associated with respiratory diseases from seasonal influenza, according to new estimates by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), the World Health Organization and global health partners, the WHO said.
This marks an increase on the previous global estimate of 250 000 – 500 000, which dates from over ten years ago and covered all influenza-related deaths, including cardiovascular disease or diabetes. The new figures of 290 000 – 650 000 deaths are based on more recent data from a larger, more diverse group of countries, including lower middle income countries, and exclude deaths from non-respiratory diseases.
“These figures indicate the high burden of influenza and its substantial social and economic cost to the world,” said Dr Peter Salama, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme. “They highlight the importance of influenza prevention for seasonal epidemics, as well as preparedness for pandemics.”
The estimates take into account findings from recent influenza respiratory mortality studies, including a study conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US-CDC), published in The Lancet on Thursday (14 December).
According to US-CDC, most deaths occur among people aged over 75 years, and in the world’s poorest regions. Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for the world’s greatest flu mortality risk, followed closely by the Eastern Mediterranean and Southeast Asia.
“All countries, rich and poor, large and small, must work together to control influenza outbreaks before the arrival of the next pandemic. This includes building capacity to detect and respond to outbreaks, and strengthening health systems to improve the health of the most vulnerable and those most at risk,” said Dr Salama.
Nearly all deaths among children under five with influenza-related lower respiratory tract infections occur in developing countries, but the effects of seasonal influenza epidemics on the world’s poorest are not fully known.