U.S. Influenza (Flu) and Pneumonia Death Statistics

Influenza Flu Pneumonia Deaths Mortality
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Influenza and pneumonia rank among the most deadly illnesses in the United States. Influenza—the flu—is caused by a virus, with symptoms including coughing, fatigue, and fever. 

While the flu is not typically fatal, it is highly contagious and can be deadly to children, seniors, and other vulnerable populations. Pneumonia, a serious condition in which the lungs fill with fluid, commonly results from a flu infection.

The most effective way to avoid the flu is to get vaccinated before flu season every year. In addition to getting a flu shot, there are many habits that can help prevent the flu and similar illnesses. Some of these health habits include: avoid close contact with someone who is sick, cover your mouth and nose, and clean your hands.

Flu and Pneumonia Death Trends in the United States

On the national scale, influenza and pneumonia deaths gradually decreased between 1999 and 2017. At 23.5 percent in 1999 to 14.3 in 2017, the rate of deaths has decreased over the last eighteen years by approximately 9 percent.

The severity of the flu varies depending on the person, the flu season, and the flu virus active that year. The most at-risk populations include seniors and young children as their immune systems are more likely to be compromised. Serious cases of the flu can result in hospitalizations. Even more serious cases result in death.

In addition to flu affecting people of various ages differently, this report drills down and shows how race and sex also affect one’s likelihood of death from influenza-like illnesses in your county.

The term "influenza-like illness" (ILI) considers the flu along with other illnesses, such as pneumonia, that cause similar symptoms, notably fever, dry cough, nausea, body aches, and nausea.

How do flu and pneumonia death rates vary by state?

The states with the highest age-adjusted death rates from flu and pneumonia in 2017 were Hawaii (29.6 deaths per 100,000 people), Mississippi (22.9) and Tennessee (21.3). These states have had relatively high death rates in other years as well. 

Note: To see data for different years, drag the time-slider beneath the map.

Demographics Differences in Deaths from ILIs

By Sex

Nationally, men are more likely to die from ILIs than women. In 2017, 16.5 men per 100,000 died from ILI's; for women, the rate was 12.7 per 100,000. Certain populations of women are more susceptible to the flu than men, such as pregnant women or women up to two weeks postpartum.

Both men and women have experienced major declines in flu and pneumonia death rates. In 1999, 28.5 per 100,000 men died from these diseases; for women, the rate in 1999 was 20.6 per 100,000 women. 

By Race

Deaths from ILIs affects certain races at slightly different rates.  Nationally, African Americans have the highest rate of ILI mortality. 

Racial disparities in deaths from the flu and pneumonia come about as a result of a variety of factors. People of color tend to be poorer, and may thus be more likely to lack sufficient access to effective medical care and flu shots. Data from the CDC on the 2012-2013 flu season showed white people received the most flu shots at 44.6 percent compared to African Americans who had the lowest at 35.6 percent.

By Age

Seniors are the age group most at risk from influenza and pneumonia. The older people are, the more likely they are to die from these illnesses.

More Information

Flu Symptoms & Complications. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018. 

What is the Connection Between Influenza and Pneumonia? American Lung Association, 2018.

Pregnant Women & Influenza (Flu), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. 

• Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2012-13 Influenza Season, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. 

This CDC video helps inform practitioners how to best recommend flu vaccines to their patients.

About the Data

Mortality data was queried from the CDC Wonder API: Underlying Cause of Death, ICD-10 codes: J10-J16, J18.

The charts show the CDC's age-adjusted rate, rather than crude rate, to account for variations in age-distribution in different populations —with the exception of the chart comparing deaths by age.