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COVID-19 has higher death rate than influenza

Date: 06 March 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous


Contrary to the general notion that COVID-19 has lower death rate compared with influenza (commonly called as seasonal flu), COVID-19 has globally caused more than three times the number of deaths in reported cases than influenza.



Across the world, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died compared with generally far fewer than 1% of those infected with influenza.



  • The reason why COVID-19 causes more deaths compared with influenza is because COVID-19 causes more severe disease than seasonal influenza.

  • Also, due to its recurrence every year, people have built some level of immunity against seasonal influenza, which is not the case with the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus and hence more people are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

  • In the case of China,the case fatality ratio (ratio of deaths from a disease to the total number of diagnosed cases) was 3.8%,  2,114 deaths in 55,924 confirmed cases. The case fatality ratio was high for Wuhan (5.8%) and low for the rest of mainland China (0.7%).

  • In China, the mortality varied in people based on age and underlying conditions. The highest mortality of 21.9% was seen among people over 80 years of age, while among retired patients but less than 80 years the mortality was 8.9%.

  • Patients who did not have any underlying conditions were less likely to die (1.4%) than people with comorbid conditions, cardiovascular disease (13.2%), diabetes (9.2%), hypertension (8.4%), chronic respiratory disease (8%) and cancer (7.6%).

  • Transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is less compared with influenza though both SARS-CoV-2 and influenza spread through small fluid droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

  • While people infected with influenza but not yet sick are major drivers of transmission, that does not appear to be the case for COVID-19.

  • Evidence from China is that only 1% of reported cases do not have symptoms, and most of those cases develop symptoms within two days.

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