Issues & Insights

COVID-19 Is Much Worse Than The Flu

The World Health Organization has called attention to a COVID-19 “infodemic” – “an overabundance of information … that includes deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information to undermine the public health response and advance alternative agendas of groups or individuals.” Part of that inaccurate information is the patently false and misleading claim that COVID-19 is like the flu, only less lethal.   

In less than a full year, COVID-19 has killed more than 380,000 Americans, been diagnosed in over 23 million, and certainly infected at least several times that number. Flu does infect large numbers of people but the illness is usually self-limited and without long-term consequences, and the average annual death toll over the past seven flu seasons has been about 35,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

COVID-19 and the flu are both highly contagious respiratory viral diseases, but COVID-19 is much more severe. It is highly infectious, has a lengthier incubation period (during which infected persons can infect other people), and causes serious, sometimes fatal illness. COVID-19 causes pulmonary symptoms, including pneumonia and pulmonary fibrosis, and a range of non-respiratory symptoms, including loss of sense of smell or taste, confusion and cognitive impairments, fainting, sudden muscle weakness or paralysis, seizures, ischemic strokes, kidney damage, and, rarely, a severe pediatric inflammatory syndrome.

A comprehensive comparison of COVID-19 and the flu, recently published in The Lancet, compared the nationwide experience in France of the 89,530 patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 between March 1 and April 30, 2020, and the 45,819 patients who were hospitalized for seasonal flu between Dec. 1, 2018, and Feb. 28, 2019, a particularly bad flu season. The study was revealing, and it found:

  • Over a shorter time period – two months for COVID-19 versus three months for seasonal flu – almost twice as many people were hospitalized for COVID-19 than for seasonal flu.
  • In-hospital mortality was much higher in patients with COVID-19 – 16.9%, compared to 5.8% for patients with flu.
  • Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to need intensive care, and the average length of stay in the intensive-care unit for COVID-19 was twice as long – 15 days for COVID-19 versus eight days for flu.
  • Patients with COVID-19 were more likely to require invasive mechanical ventilation than patients with flu.

Vaccination for flu in France likely lowered both the number of deaths and the disease prevalence, inasmuch as roughly 30% of the population under 65 were vaccinated and some 51% over 65 during the 2018-19 season. (Vaccination for COVID-19 should produce much greater effectiveness in curbing death and illness in the population than the seasonal flu vaccine since the COVID-19 vaccines have shown a much higher degree of effectiveness in clinical trials and are expected to get better uptake in the population.)

Unlike the flu, which usually resolves within a week, symptoms following the acute phase of COVID-19 infection “recovery” often persist.  Even non-hospitalized patients who have mild illness can experience persistent symptoms or reappearance with severe symptoms. Finally, there are “long-haulers,” the tens of thousands of Americans who have symptoms that can last for weeks or even months after recovery from the acute illness.  

According to Anthony Komaroff, editor in chief of the Harvard Health Letter, long-haulers fall into two groups: 1) Those who experience some permanent damage to their lungs, heart, kidneys, or brain that may affect their ability to function. 2) Those who continue to experience debilitating symptoms despite no detectable damage to these organs, many of whom will develop symptoms of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

Research from the CDC has quantified the risks facing the 85% percent of the persons who survive an initial hospitalization for COVID-19. Within two months, 9% were readmitted to the same hospital, and approximately 1.6% were readmitted more than once. The likelihood of readmission was higher for those 65 and older, and for those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart failure, diabetes (type 1 or 2 with chronic complications), chronic kidney disease, or obesity. Fewer than 0.1% of patients died during readmission.

COVID-19 has placed a huge burden on hospitals with overwhelmed intensive-care unit capacity, a threat to Americans suffering from not only COVID-19 but also other life-threatening diseases requiring intensive care. ICU occupancy rates are dangerously high in many parts of the country.  With an even worse surge in COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and ICU admissions possible in late January, ICU care is already being rationed in many places, frontline medical personnel are experiencing burnout, and there are staff shortages. 

Until COVID-19 vaccines begin to have a significant impact – probably not until well into 2021 – individuals need to protect themselves and others by the straightforward public health measures that prevent the spread of droplets and aerosols that transmit respiratory infections: masking, social distancing, frequent handwashing, and avoiding situations with more people than permitted by public health officials. The precautions we take now are literally matters of life and death. 

John J. Cohrssen is an attorney who served in senior positions for White House agencies, including the office of Vice President Dan Quayle. Henry I. Miller, a physician and molecular biologist, is a senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute. He was the founding director of the FDA’s Office of Biotechnology.

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  • I will pass on the vaccine, I have lost all trust in Fauci and government. After watching how the left used this flu to hurt people, the double standard of the left when it comes to wearing a day over your mouth and the increase in mask wearing as it seems to correlate with the increased in cases. The mere fact that there is such a big push for something that has not been tested long term , and I will pass on masks and a vaccine and just live my life.
    Kind of odd that the ones who scream about how harmful GMO for us have no issue with being injected with a vaccine that is going to Genetically Modify their bodies.

  • We do not know how many people have died of CV-19 in the US. Unless you do a detailed autopsy coupled with reliable lab work you have no idea who died of what. Many people die from a combination of problems. Time to get some science behind the numbers.

  • Caution ought to be used, yes. Simple social courtesies, yes. But, you might also include a comment or two on the sheer political horseplay (closing churches but not Walmart or Home Depot, closing barber shops but not for politicians and the monied classes, closing restaurants outdoor dining but not BLM/Antifa rioting, etc., etc., etc.). Had there been a genuine, consistent, honest response from government instead of the highly politicized tah rah, there’d be little need for you rather inaccurate article (your numbers according to the CDC are wrong – check them).

  • The use of this time period of COVID is misleading. March and April were the mass onset of the virus with the medical community unsure of how to treat it. Many many patients were put on ventilators, which in hind sight has been shown to be counter-productive. Thus, longer hospital stays and long-term effects.

  • The problem this article fails to address is the millions of people who have had the Chinese coronavirus and experienced very little in the way of symptoms. Clearly there are some massive problems as was pointed out. But, when you ignore so much truth while trying to present your own truth, it comes off as a mere sales job and reduces your credibility on the subject.

  • The article is misleading. For one thing, the CDC reports that only 6% of deaths attributed to COVID were solely due to it, as reported on death certificates. The other 94% had an average of 2.9 morbidities. Furthermore, the vast majority of deaths are in people over the age of 75, with most over 85. For that matter, some 8,000 Americans die every day, and most are in that age group. As for COVID being “worse” than flu, it depends. I know about a dozen and a half people who have had it or have it now. Most had very mild cases. One told me it was like a bad cold. My brother-in-law worked on his vehicles and slept while he had it. On the other hand, my younger brother has it now and he’s felt terrible, with chills that made him feel like he was freezing from the inside out. However, I’ve had the flu in the past when I felt like death warmed over. As with everything else, COVID experience is relative with no absolutes.

  • “COVID-19 has killed more than 380,000 Americans”

    I don’t know how many it has killed. But I’m quite certain that’s not an accurate number.

  • Have Covid right now. It sucks but this business of trying to terrify all of us is getting very old. There is no consistent info about symptoms, treatment. No one is particularly alarmed in the medical community about helping me or treating my infection with this virus. I have lost all faith in the medical community and their politicization of this illness. Basically they’ve left us to our own devices. Among the people I know who have had it they have had no long term effects. I’m sixty, my friends who have been through it are in their sixties. I’ll get to find out for myself how I’ll get through it. I and I needs to stop printing this crap.

  • Sorry. Not buying it. Not after all the revelations that still came through about WHO malfeasance, the report that was withdrawn from Johns Hopkins and the proven finagling with numbers to generate fear porn and keep us locked down and submissive.

    Like every other disease/virus in recent years, we need to protect and quarantine THE VULNERABLE, not the general population.

    • 1. No claim of any “number of SARS-CoV-2 deaths” can be believed without identifying the source and presenting details why the number is valid. Especially when it has been reported in places that only 6% of deaths were caused by SAR-CoV-2″ compared to tested positive.

      2. A commenter above also noted “deaths per age group” as another source of misleading the reader. Excess deaths by age group shows age is a huge factor in who is dying. Also you need to factor in the aging population and one study claimed there would be 100-165k additional deaths ( from 5 year average ) in the older populations just from demographic changes. That would need to be subtracted out of any increase in excess deaths blamed on SARS-CoV-2.

      3. I’ve also seen a lot of claims of hospitals full of SARS-CoV-2 patients. Hospitals are now businesses, not charities. I have yet to hear that the windfall guaranteed payments from claiming a patient was sick with SARS-CoV-2 have stopped. I am sure if hospitals had a profit motive to call those patients something else we would immediately be shifted to a new label. Also if you look at hospital bed utilization there is nothing catastrophic going on. Hospitals have been leaned out to maximize the business and will only provide the level of service needed at the moment–there is a lot of flex space and capacity.

      4. Anyone see a chart of the numbers of SARS-CoV-2 PCR tests being performed on a daily basis? Me neither. I would bet the count of tests and the count of “cases” would line up pretty well. I would guess that is the situation–and what does that tell you? The change in case count is driven by testing and not by actual infections. Sort of self-fulfilling if you are going to lock down when “cases” go up and then ramp testing up to prove the problem is getting worse. Why don’t we graph deaths from SARS-CoV-2 in normal “not-at-risk” populations to gauge the level of terror? That would show the real risk to country from the virus.

      Remember, we are taking away civil liberties, our freedoms, and in many cases our economic livelihoods. We should expect strong justification, real risk to each person’s health for this level of hardship and repression. It is just not there.

      For some great dry humor and real scientific facts check out and you won’t be disappointed.

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