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COVID still has a higher mortality risk than the flu


Anti-vaccine activists love to say that COVID is no worse than the flu and that both have a low mortality risk. Setting aside the fact that flu is dangerous, a new study shows that people who are hospitalized with COVID are much more likely to die compared to those who are hospitalized with the flu.

COVID may become like influenza — SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID, will continue to mutate frequently. Some mutations may be minor, or some can be significant, increasing potential harm.

Like I usually do, let’s review this new research and provide you with cold, hard data that shows that COVID is still more dangerous than the flu.

man wearing blue scrub suit and mask sitting on bench covid flu mortality
Photo by Jonathan Borba on Pexels.com

Comparing flu and COVID mortality risk research

In a research letter published in the respected journal JAMA, Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, of the VA St. Louis Health Care System, and colleagues analyzed Department of Veterans Affairs data of over 11,000 patients who were hospitalized for either flu or COVID during the fall and winter of 2023-24.

The researchers examined data from Veterans Affairs electronic health records across all 50 states. Researchers identified people admitted to a hospital with a diagnosis of COVID-19 or influenza between 1 October 2023 and 27 March 2024, along with a positive test 2 days before or up to 10 days after admission. Patients with either illness who were hospitalized for another reason were excluded from the study. The study’s cohort included 8,625 participants hospitalized for COVID-19 and 2,647 participants hospitalized for seasonal influenza.

Here are the key findings:

  • 5.7% of patients with COVID-19 died within 30 days of admission versus 4.24% of patients with influenza.
  • After adjusting for variables, the risk of death in people hospitalized for COVID-19 was 35% higher.
  • There appeared to be no significant difference in the risk of death among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 before and during the emergence of the JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2. This data suggests that the JN.1 variant may not be more severe than other recent variants.
  • About 65% of patients hospitalized for COVID had received three or more COVID vaccinations. Approximately 15% had not received any COVID vaccine. About 44% of the study population had received the most recent seasonal influenza vaccine.

This data from this study needs to be considered against the fact there were nearly twice as many hospitalizations for COVID-19 compared with the flu for the 2023-2024 season, according to CDC surveillance data. COVID still causes more hospitalizations than the flu.

Summary

This is a large, powerful study that showed that the mortality risk from COVID is 35% higher than the risk from influenza. For those who try to push the narrative that COVID is nothing more than the flu (which is still bad), it is a false narrative.

Our healthcare system has reduced the mortality rate from COVID over the past four years, so the mortality risk between the flu and COVID is much smaller than it had been in the past. But COVID is still dangerous.

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Michael Simpson

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