​Researchers compare COVID-19 and flu death rates


A new analysis from researchers at Harvard and Emory universities indicates COVID-19 is 10 to 44 times deadlier than the seasonal flu.

The assessment was published Thursday by JAMA Internal Medicine.

As of early May 2020, approximately 65 000 people in the US died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). This number appears to be similar to the estimated number of seasonal influenza deaths reported annually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Public officials continue to draw comparisons between seasonal flu and COVID-19. Still, Dr. Samuel Faust, of Harvard Medical School, said such “incorrect comparisons” may be the result of a “knowledge gap regarding how seasonal influenza and COVID-19 data are publicly reported.”

To make an apples-to-apples comparison, Faust and Dr. Carlos Del Rio, of Emory University, compared weekly deaths from flu in the last seven years with weekly deaths from COVID-19 in 2020.

During the week ending April 21, 2020, the US reported 15 455 COVID-19 counted deaths. The reported number of counted deaths from the previous week, ending April 14, was 14 478.

By contrast, according to the CDC, counted deaths during the peak week of the influenza seasons from 2013-2014 to 2019-2020 ranged from 351 (2015-2016, week 11 of 2016) to 1626 (2017-2018, week 3 of 2018).

The mean number of counted deaths during the peak week of influenza seasons from 2013-2020 was 752.4.

These statistics on counted deaths suggest that the number of COVID-19 deaths for the week ending April 21 was 9.5-fold to 44.1-fold greater than the peak week of counted influenza deaths during the past seven influenza seasons in the US, with a 20.5-fold mean increase.


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