Who Dies from Flu? – CDC Does Not Really Know

Flu is everywhere this year, and nasty.  Infection rates and hospitalizations are skyrocketing.  To make things worse, short-sighted employers are bullying employees to come to work when they are still sick and infectious. This is especially dangerous in under-staffed medical facilities.  Nurses are already over their limits in patients.  The other nurses are working double shifts to cover patients of sick nurses.  For example, when a rehabilitation center forces a sick nurse to come to work, it exposes the staff, recovering patients, and their visitors.  That leads to more shortages of staff; it also infects patients, and families.  Fragile patients are very vulnerable to respiratory infections as it is.  Pile infectious staff on top of their weak immune systems and you have a recipe for death.

It does not help that individual states and the CDC do not report the actual deaths from influenza.  That is right; CDC “estimates” the number of people who die from influenza.  My question is how can they verify their estimates if they never do an actual count? (This smacks of the way the Census Bureau pads their numbers statistically, when the demographics do not suit politicians.)

Eighty to ninety percent of flu deaths are adults over age 65, yet states do not report them.  The CDC uses statistical models that extrapolate flu deaths from death certificates, because states are lax in recording the causes of death.

Death certificates usually list the last illness as the cause of death.  When a person dies from complications and infections caused or aggravated by flu, the death certificate does not show or list influenza as a cause.  Pneumonia is the most common flu-related cause of death.  That is why CDC lumps deaths from flu and pneumonia together in their cause-of-death reporting.

What would happen if states did report the over age 65 deaths involving flu?  Much larger, scarier numbers.  As it is, recent CDC estimates of flu deaths have ranged from 12,000 to 56,000 per year.  What if the real numbers were double that?

It is not like flu only happens once a decade, it happens every year, and it affects millions of people.  How much more effort would it be to put multiple causes of death on death certificates?  The doctor that “calls it” knows the causes, why not record them?

The CDC has the time and resources to track opioids and suicides, why not death from flu; and why not age 65+?  Would the more complete information on flu-related deaths improve our choices of strains included in the yearly vaccine?  So far, I cannot find any discussion on the CDC website that offers an answer.

Instead of why they cannot do better, how about why not do better?