Covid-19 death rate 3 times higher than influenza, study finds

Mumbai | Updated on December 18, 2020

Also, Covid-19 patients were twice as likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation during their hospital treatment, than those suffering from flu.

According to a study published in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the coronavirus death rate is three times higher than the death rate prevalent during the peak of the influenza season in 2018-19.

The study, conducted by the researchers in France, noted that nearly twice the number of people were admitted to hospital with Covid-19 at the height of the pandemic, than with influenza in 2018-19.

Study design

For the study, researchers compared 89,530 hospitalized Covid-19 patients in France over two months during spring. Of this, 45,819 were admitted for influenza over a three-month time during the seasonal flu outbreak of 2018-19.

Among those studied, 15,104 (16.9 per cent) Covid-19 patients died as opposed to 2,640 (5.8 per cent) deaths among the influenza patients. Over 16 per cent of Covid-19 patients also experienced severe illness, requiring intensive care, compared to 10.8 per cent of those who suffered from influenza.

Catherine Quantin, from the Dijon University Hospital in France, said in a statement: “Our study is the largest to date to compare the two diseases and confirms that Covid-19 is far more serious than the flu. The finding that the Covid-19 death rate was three times higher than for seasonal influenza is particularly striking when reminded that the 2018/2019 flu season had been the worst in the past five years in France in terms of the number of deaths.”

The study further stated that people develop some degree of immunity to influenza, either as a result of previous infection or vaccination. This is also the reason why the infection may lead to fewer cases of hospitalisation.

While in the case of Covid-19 is a new virus and very few people would be expected to have previous immunity against it.

Ventilator support

The study also found that Covid-19 patients were twice as likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation during their hospital treatment, than those suffering from flu.

The report mentioned that around 9.7 per cent of Covid-19 patients required mechanical ventilation, compared to only 4 per cent of influenza patients. Notably, the average length of stay for Covid-19 patients in intensive care units was nearly twice as long when compared to seasonal influenza patients.

The data also revealed that over one in four patients with Covid-19 experienced acute respiratory failure, where the lungs are unable to pump oxygen into the body, compared to less than one in five patients with influenza.

The Lancet study revealed that fewer children aged under 18 years were hospitalised with Covid-19, compared to flu. But a larger proportion of Covid-19 patients who were under five years needed intensive care support, than those with influenza.

The death rate among hospitalized Covid-19 patients aged 11-17 years appeared to be ten times higher compared to those with flu.

“Taken together, our findings indicate that Covid-19 is much more serious than seasonal influenza. At a time when no treatment has been shown to be effective at preventing severe disease in Covid-19 patients, this study highlights the importance of all measures of physical prevention and underlines the importance of effective vaccines,” said Pascale Tubert-Bitter, research director at L’Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm).

Published on December 18, 2020

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