Annual estimates of the burden of seasonal influenza in the United States: A tool for strengthening influenza surveillance and preparedness

Influenza Other Respir Viruses. 2018 Jan;12(1):132-137. doi: 10.1111/irv.12486. Epub 2018 Feb 14.


Background: Estimates of influenza disease burden are broadly useful for public health, helping national and local authorities monitor epidemiologic trends, plan and allocate resources, and promote influenza vaccination. Historically, estimates of the burden of seasonal influenza in the United States, focused mainly on influenza-related mortality and hospitalization, were generated every few years. Since the 2010-2011 influenza season, annual US influenza burden estimates have been generated and expanded to include estimates of influenza-related outpatient medical visits and symptomatic illness in the community.

Methods: We used routinely collected surveillance data, outbreak field investigations, and proportions of people seeking health care from survey results to estimate the number of illnesses, medical visits, hospitalizations, and deaths due to influenza during six influenza seasons (2010-2011 through 2015-2016).

Results: We estimate that the number of influenza-related illnesses that have occurred during influenza season has ranged from 9.2 million to 35.6 million, including 140 000 to 710 000 influenza-related hospitalizations.

Discussion: These annual efforts have strengthened public health communications products and supported timely assessment of the impact of vaccination through estimates of illness and hospitalizations averted. Additionally, annual estimates of influenza burden have highlighted areas where disease surveillance needs improvement to better support public health decision making for seasonal influenza epidemics as well as future pandemics.

Keywords: United States; burden; influenza.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cost of Illness
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Influenza Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Influenza Vaccines / immunology
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology*
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seasons
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult


  • Influenza Vaccines