Health officials are worried that the 2020–2021 flu season could couple with rising COVID-19 cases to create a “twindemic.” If cases of the two respiratory diseases spike at the same time, hospitals may become overloaded with patients, and deaths may increase as a result.
The flu season in the United States lasts from October to May, although cases tend to peak in December, January, and February. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths may stay relatively low during some flu seasons, but other years influenza is much more of a public health threat. Since 2010, cases have ranged from between 9 million and 45 million per year and between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths. Not all states are impacted equally. Alaska has the lowest number of flu and pneumonia deaths per capita from 2013 to 2020 at 233 per 100,000 people, and West Virginia has the highest at 687 per 100,000 people.
Australia, Chile, and South Africa all reported mild flu seasons lasting from June to August 2020, which suggests the same will be true in the 2020–2021 U.S. flu season. This is due in part to precautions such as masks and social distancing that protect against both COVID-19 and the flu, which can both lead to pneumonia.
Two influenza viruses—influenza A and B—are responsible for the seasonal flu season. New mutations of these viruses and flu vaccination rates can affect the severity of a season. Adults over 65 and children younger than 5, and especially those under age 2, are at high risk of complications from the flu.
To determine states that have seen the most deaths from flu and pneumonia, Stacker consulted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Pneumonia and Influenza Mortality Surveillance, from the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System. This source includes deaths from influenza and pneumonia in all flu seasons from 2013–2014 to 2020–2021.
In this story, states are ranked based on their total flu and pneumonia deaths per capita from 2013 to 2020. Stacker also determined each state’s worst flu season from 2013 to 2020, excluding the current, 2020–2021 season, based on the share of all deaths during the season that were caused by flu and pneumonia. Data included in this story are as of Oct. 3, 2020.
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