Why COVID is not just like the flu (but) in a single brutal graph

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Since COVID first hit the U.S., some have argued that the nascent illness is not any extra harmful than the flu, which sweeps the U.S. each fall and winter.

“It is a flu. This is sort of a flu,” former President Donald Trump insisted at a Feb. 26, 2020, press briefing, simply because the virus hit the U.S. “It’s just a little like a daily flu that we’ve flu pictures for.”

Whereas the 2 can current with related symptoms—like fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, and headache—and are each extra more likely to be deadly for the aged and immunocompromised, the comparability falls aside with regards to the loss of life toll. 

One graph specifically exhibits simply how stark the mortality distinction is between the 2. Flu deaths seem virtually flat in comparison with surges in COVID deaths over the previous three years. 

“We’re now making an attempt to deal with [COVID] like a seasonal influenza and it’s simply not but,” Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the College of Minnesota’s Middle for Infectious Illness Analysis and Coverage (CIDRAP), just lately informed Fortune.

There have been 1,055 COVID deaths within the U.S. two weeks in the past, based on knowledge from the U.S. Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, in comparison with only 4 flu deaths the same week.

COVID deaths have spiked a number of occasions over the previous few years on account of new variants of the virus, taking lots of of 1000’s of lives yearly (463,210 last year). In contrast, the flu solely took an estimated 22,000 lives through the 2019-2020 season, according to the CDC

Over the previous 12 years, the flu’s estimated annual loss of life toll has been as little as 12,000, however by no means larger than 61,000—simply an eighth of COVID’s loss of life toll within the first yr of the pandemic.

Because the earliest days of the pandemic, weekly COVID deaths have been no less than 15 occasions that of weekly flu deaths—and typically as a lot as 811 occasions.

Right here for the lengthy haul

COVID’s loss of life toll is unlikely to sink to flu ranges any time quickly, specialists say, although U.S. well being officers have expressed hope that COVID boosters will quickly turn into an annual prevalence, very similar to the flu shot.

“I feel COVID deaths will proceed to exceed flu deaths for some time, until we see one thing new in influenza,” like a deadlier pressure growing, Dr. Stuart Ray, vice chair of medication for knowledge integrity and analytics at Johns Hopkins Division of Drugs, just lately informed Fortune.

In the case of leading causes of death within the U.S., COVID has landed as No. 3 for the final two years, whereas influenza and pneumonia, grouped collectively, have landed as No. 9, based on the CDC. 

Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious illness specialist and senior scholar on the Johns Hopkins Middle for Well being Safety, agrees with Ray. He says COVID is more likely to stay a number one explanation for loss of life within the U.S. “for the following couple of years,” because the inhabitants builds extra immunity and science develops more practical instruments to struggle the virus—so long as the virus doesn’t evade these instruments.

Finally, the CDC will possible collapse COVID deaths into the flu and pneumonia deaths class, Adalja predicts. However he nonetheless expects COVID to have an “outsized” loss of life toll when in comparison with different infectious ailments within the U.S., just like the flu, for the foreseeable future.

One factor is for certain, based on Adalja: Whether or not COVID continues to be a prime killer within the U.S. and globally, or whether or not its fatality fee finally sinks to that of the present-day flu, COVID is right here to remain.

To assume that the brand new virus will probably be stamped out, and that life will revert to love it was in 2019, is “magical considering,” he mentioned. 

“Not within the historical past of the human species have we had a brand new infectious illness seem that simply disappears,” he mentioned. “So long as there are people on this planet, there are going to be COVID-19 infections on this planet.”

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