Recurrent epidemics of influenza are observed seasonally around the world with considerable health and economic consequences. A key quantity for the control of infectious diseases is the reproduction number, which measures the transmissibility of a pathogen and determines the magnitude of public health interventions necessary to control epidemics. Here we applied a simple epidemic model to weekly indicators of influenza mortality to estimate the reproduction numbers of seasonal influenza epidemics spanning three decades in the United States, France, and Australia. We found similar distributions of reproduction number estimates in the three countries, with mean value 1.3 and important year-to-year variability (range 0.9-2.1). Estimates derived from two different mortality indicators (pneumonia and influenza excess deaths and influenza-specific deaths) were in close agreement for the United States (correlation=0.61, P60%) in healthy individuals who respond well to vaccine, in addition to periodic re-vaccination due to evolving viral antigens and waning population immunity.