COVID is five times deadlier than the flu, St. Louis researchers say


ST. LOUIS – During the COVID pandemic, some politicians have downplayed the seriousness of the disease, comparing it to the seasonal flu. Local researchers did an apple-to-apple comparison to see which is more dangerous and deadlier.

Researchers at the VA St. Louis Health Care System and Washington University took a deep dive into federal data regarding the two viruses. The results weren’t even close.

“Promoting the public’s understanding that COVID-19 is a serious disease. It’s actually much, much more serious, and much more risky than seasonal flu,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, Washington University assistant professor of medicine and director of clinical epidemiology center at the VA Health Care System in St. Louis.

The study analyzed thousands of VA medical records. Among hospitalized patients, COVID-19 was associated with an increased need for ventilators, more admissions into intensive care units, longer hospital stays, and nearly five times the risk of death than those suffering with the flu.

“In COVID-19, people are much more at risk of having a stroke or experiencing new onset diabetes or blood clots in the lungs or acute kidney injury than what we typically observe with seasonal influenza,” Al-Aly said.

And while the vast majority of people who get COVID will live, survivors will experience some of the conditions associated with COVID even after the virus is gone.

“What we’re worried about right now is the multiple manifestations of COVID for those people who really survive COVID. What is going to be the health trajectory going forward?” Al-Aly said. “What are we going to do to help them deal with that on the diabetes, this new stroke that they got when they got COVID, the blood clots in their lungs, the issues related to kidneys? And that’s likely to be an added burden on the health care system.”

Dr. Al-Aly hopes the results of the study lead to a better understanding by the public of how dangerous COVID is and to take precautions and stimulate interest in the vaccine.

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