About 646,000 people die globally each year due to seasonal flu

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CHICAGO As many as 646,000 people are dying globally from seasonal influenza each year, US health officials said, a rise from earlier assessments. Global death rates from seasonal influenza are likely between 291,000 and 646,000 people yearly, depending on the severity of the circulating flu strain.

That is up from a prior estimate range of 250,000 to 500,000 deaths, according to officials from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), published in the medical journal The Lancet.

The CDC did not give reasons for the hike in estimates but said the study by it and its global health partners was based on data from a larger, more diverse sample of countries than previously.

It excludes deaths during flu pandemics and from conditions exacerbated by the flu, such as heart disease.

"These findings remind us of the seriousness of flu and that flu prevention should really be a global priority," said Dr Joe Bresee, associate director for global health at the CDC's Influenza Division and a co-author of the study.

The greatest flu mortality burden falls on the world's poorest regions and among older adults.

People aged 75 and older and those living in sub-Saharan Africa had the highest rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths, the study found.

Eastern Mediterranean and South-east Asian countries had slightly lower but still high rates of flu-associated respiratory deaths, the researchers said.

The officials are predicting an especially challenging 2017/2018 flu season, which is just starting in the Northern hemisphere, where majority of Asia are. - REUTERS