Science

Covid-19 could be worse than the 1918 influenza pandemic: Study

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on August 14, 2020 Published on August 14, 2020

The pandemic in New York is at least 70 per cent as bad as the one in 1918

According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, the coronavirus pandemic could be as deadly as the 1918 H1N1 influenza and the death toll could be worse if world leaders fail to contain the virus.

“What we want people to know is that this has 1918 potential,” lead author Dr Jeremy Faust said in an interview as cited in the CNBC report.

He added that the pandemic in New York is at least 70 per cent as bad as the one in 1918 when doctors didn’t have ventilators or other advances to help save lives like they do today.

“This is not something to just shrug off like the flu.”

Researchers noted in their paper that the incident rate ratio for all-cause mortality during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the early 2020 Covid-19 outbreak was 0.70.

This means that the absolute increase in deaths over baseline (ie, excess mortality) observed during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic was higher but comparable to that observed during the first two months of the Covid-19 outbreak in New York City.

However, baseline mortality rates from 2017 to 2019 were less than half that observed from 1914 to 1917. This is due to the fact that improvements have been made in hygiene and modern achievements in medicine, public health, and safety.

The relative increase during the early Covid-19 period was substantially greater than the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic

“If insufficiently treated, SARS-CoV-2 infection may have comparable or greater mortality than the 1918 H1N1 influenza virus infection,” Faust wrote in the paper, who is a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School.

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Published on August 14, 2020
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