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COVID-19 IS Worse Than the Flu!

I am fed up with the message that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu. It's not true. We are running out of ICU beds and morgues are maxed out.
COVID-19 IS Worse Than the Flu!
Respiratory connection tube, HME filter and suction catheter, patient connected to medical ventilator in ICU in hospital.

Do you remember hearing that COVID-19 was no worse than the flu? A new study from France (Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Dec. 17, 2020) compares hospitalizations and deaths for both diseases.  The researchers found that during a two month period in 2020, twice as many patients were hospitalized with COVID-19. That’s compared to people hospitalized with influenza during the three-month flu season of 2019.

COVID-19 Confusion – “Just Like the Flu”

Some people are convinced that COVID-19 is no worse than the the flu. Here are a few of their comments.

Donald shared this message back in June:

“The vast majority of people who contract COVID-19 are virtually unaffected, asymptomatic, and the actual death rate is 1/10 of what we thought it was, which wasn’t much to begin with. Yes, there is a high-risk category of age and comorbidity factors (diabetes, chronic heart failure, emphysema, etc.) but for the general population it is hardly a worry. Less, apparently, than many of the flus we have survived over the past decades.

“It would also suggest that the more people who contract it the sooner the ‘herd immunity’ kicks in. It will always be with us, but it will be nothing more than just another disease that is out there… waiting…like a spider.”

Rob is a registered nurse. He offers this perspective:

“What are we willing to call ‘part of the normal price’ when it comes to mortality from a virus like the flu? Our federal and state administrators feel as if the number should be zero. What is a reasonable number of fatalities? If 50,000 die in any given year due to complications of flu, nobody bats an eye. It’s expected that seasonal flu will exacerbate chronic conditions and possibly bring about a fatal result. Perhaps this new virus is a wake-up call to better hygiene and better follow-up on the chronic health conditions that many Americans have.

“That is why we have an immune system and that is why 90-95% of us will recover with few or any side effects from this virus. Americans need to take responsibility for their health and well being and not leave it in the hands of big Pharma or big government.”

Ginny offered this message in May. Her point: COVID-19 is no worse than the flu:

“There is no denying that there is a virus out there than can make you sick, but so does the flu. The virus can kill you, but so does the flu. The flu kills thousands of people in the world every year. In the latest report between 291,000 to 646,000 people died worldwide from the seasonal flu. And like the virus, the elderly and the poor had the highest cases of death.

“The United States had over 80,000 flu deaths last winter! Check it out! No one suggested closing down the country or wearing masks and gloves. If you scare people enough you can obviously get them to do anything! What if the next step in preventing the virus is to cover the entire body, like a burka for instance? This will all be over in November! It is criminal that this whole thing has become a political issue.”

Why Do So Many People Think COVID-19 Is No Worse Than the Flu?

Can we trust the CDC’s numbers? The surveillance network that the CDC originally created for coronavirus testing relied upon the existing flu monitoring system. Instead of rolling out a fast and effective COVID-19 test in a widespread manner, the CDC used a limited network of laboratories.

There was also the message that lots of people die from influenza:  

“CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.”

Politicians used these numbers to downplay the significance of the coronavirus. Heck, if as many as 800,000 people are hospitalized and more than 60,000 people die of the flu each year, we should be able to handle COVID-19, right? How could the coronavirus be worse than the flu?

The CDC Estimates Flu Cases!

The problem is that the CDC’s estimates are just that, estimates.

The people at the CDC extrapolate from relatively small numbers:

“The model uses a ratio of deaths-to-hospitalizations in order to estimate the total influenza-associated deaths from the estimated number of influenza-associated hospitalizations.”

In other words, the CDC has created models and estimates that may or may not reflect actual numbers from influenza. We are not in a position to question the CDC’s calculations. But we do have some observations.

During a really bad flu epidemic, some hospitals may have to set up tents outside to handle the triage of flu patients. But we have never heard of severe shortages of equipment like ventilators even during the worst flu year. ICU beds are never in short supply because of a bad flu season! And we have never heard of temporary morgues in refrigerator trucks parked outside hospitals.

As of today, there are under 18.5 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. and around 326,000 deaths. That is horrific. Our hospitals are overwhelmed and our health care workers are on the brink of collapse. 

If the CDC is right about influenza hospitalizations and deaths, we should see this kind of collapse almost every year. Even in the worst flu years, our hospitals manage to cope. Right now our hospitals are collapsing!

This Coronavirus IS Worse Than the Flu:

In our opinion, comparing the flu to this pandemic creates COVID-19 confusion. Can we trust the CDC model of flu deaths? We have our doubts.

According to the article in Lancet Respiratory Medicine, the death rate for hospitalized patients with COVID-19 is nearly triple that for influenza. In addition, ICU stays were nearly twice as long and patients with the coronavirus were more likely to require mechanical ventilation.

The authors of this French study conclude:

“The presentation of patients with COVID-19 and seasonal influenza requiring hospitalisation differs considerably. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is likely to have a higher potential for respiratory pathogenicity, leading to more respiratory complications and to higher mortality. In children, although the rate of hospitalisation for COVID-19 appears to be lower than for influenza, in-hospital mortality is higher; however, low patient numbers limit this finding. These findings highlight the importance of appropriate preventive measures for COVID-19, as well as the need for a specific vaccine and treatment.”

Influenza never competes with heart disease or cancer for the leading cause of deaths in the US. Now, COVID-19 is the leading cause of death in America. You can read our new post at this link:

Top Killer in the US Is Now COVID-19
Have you tuned out the headlines about daily deaths from COVID-19? It’s overwhelming. But now the coronavirus has become our top killer.

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
  • Piroth, L., et al, "Comparison of the characteristics, morbidity, and mortality of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza: a nationwide, population-based retrospective cohort study," Lancet Respiratory Medicine, Dec. 17, 2020, DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30527-0
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