Which is more dangerous: COVID-19 or influenza? COVID and it's not even close, new study shows

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - New evidence from local researchers that COVID-19 is far deadlier and much more dangerous than the flu.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System compared federal data of the two viruses -- and found, despite some claims to the contrary, COVID-19 is a much more serious illness than influenza.

Among hospitalized patients, this study found 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 faced by those with the flu.

Of the 12,676 patients studied with the flu, 674 died – or 5.3%. Of the 3,641 patients with COVID-19, 676 died – or 18.5%.

This data analysis also showed that COVID-19 patients most at risk for death were those 75-years-old and older who also had chronic kidney disease or dementia. Also most at risk were African Americans who were considered medically obese or who had diabetes or kidney disease.

And although both illnesses attack the lungs, the analysis showed COVID-19 can also attack the organs and was associated with a higher risk of complications such as acute kidney and liver damage – as well as heart disorders, stroke, severe septic shock, low blood pressure, excessive blood clotting and new-onset diabetes.

"Having a uniform comparison of data helps with disease prediction models, preparation and prevention efforts," said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, senior author of the study and an assistant professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine. "The findings may inform the discussion in the U.S. and abroad about the comparative risks of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza, and may help the ongoing effort to manage the COVID-19 pandemic."

Researchers reviewed de-identified medical records in a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The records of the COVID-19 patients were between February 1 and June 17, 2020. The flu records come from hospitalized influenza patients from January 1, 2017 through December 31, 2019.

The findings are published online in the journal -- The BMJ.

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