Study Finds COVID is 5 times Deadlier than Flu for Hospital Patients

December 18, 2020 by Christen Aldrich

Filed under COVID-19 for Employers, COVID-19 for the Workforce

Last modified January 4, 2021

Compared with patients with seasonal flu, hospitalized COVID-19 patients face an increased need for ventilation and intensive care, longer hospital stays, more complications, and nearly five times the risk of death, according to a US study published yesterday in BMJ. The study was led by researchers from the VA Saint Louis Health Care System, and mined the US Department of Veterans Affairs medical records database to compare the outcomes of 3,641 COVID-19 patients hospitalized from February 1 to June 17 with those of 12,676 hospitalized with the flu from 2017 to 2019.

Differences in death rates due to COVID-19 versus flu were most evident in people older than 75 years who had chronic kidney disease or dementia and black patients with chronic kidney disease, diabetes, or obesity. While both viruses affect the lungs, the study showed that COVID-19 can also harm other organs. The novel coronavirus was also linked to a higher risk of acute kidney injury, new need for dialysis or insulin, severe septic shock, and the need for vasopressors to raise abnormally low blood pressure.

“Even for people who are fortunate to survive the acute COVID-19 illness, they may be forever scarred by the lasting impact of its long-term clinical complications,” coauthor Ziyad Al-Aly, MD, of the VA Saint Louis Health Care System said. “The more we understand, the better we can benchmark health-care resources and treat patients.”

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