First published in October 2020.


On his return to the White House from hospital, where he was treated for coronavirus, Donald Trump once again downplayed the threat posed by the deadly virus by exaggerating influenza’s death toll instead.

The U.S. president tweeted that many people die from the flu each year, β€œsometimes over 100,000”, a claim that was quickly debunked. Twitter hid the president’s post, tagging it with a warning that it violated its rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to Covid-19.

Twitter – @realDonaldTrump

Up to 7 October, 211,513 Americans have died from Covid-19, a toll that is expected to continue rising during the winter months. So, just how wrong was the president about the flu and how many people actually die from it annually?

Seasonal influenza viruses can occur throughout the year in the U.S. but they hit hardest during the autumn and winter, peaking between December and February. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that the 2019-2020 flu season involved two waves of activity and moderate severity with 38 million people contracting influenza, 18 million visiting a health care provider, 400,000 being hospitalized and 22,000 people sadly passing away.

Estimated number of deaths due to influenza in the U.S. by season. | Statista

That is a significantly lower total than the 100,000 deaths tweeted by Trump. Even the deadliest flu season of the last decade, 2017-2018, had a lower death toll with an estimated 61,000 people dying of influenza.

This year’s flu season is expected to be more difficult than usual due to Covid-19.πŸ”·


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[This piece was first published in Statista & written by Niall McCarthy, Data Journalist at Statista.]

(Cover: Twitter/@realDonaldTrump.)

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