How dangerous is Covid-19? CDC warns it is five times deadlier than the flu for hospitalized patients

Hospitalized coronavirus patients also have an increased risk for 17 respiratory and nonrespiratory complications


                            How dangerous is Covid-19? CDC warns it is five times deadlier than the flu for hospitalized patients
(Getty Images)

The coronavirus pandemic has killed over 1 million people globally and a new analysis shows how dangerous it can be for patients hospitalized with Covid-19. Researchers found that compared with patients with flu, those with Covid-19 had a more than five times higher risk for in-hospital death and approximately double the ICU admission risk. Patients hospitalized with coronavirus were also at an increased risk for 17 acute respiratory, cardiovascular, hematologic, neurologic, renal, and other complications, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Certain racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, it adds. 

“Compared with influenza, Covid-19 is associated with an increased risk for most respiratory and nonrespiratory complications. The higher risk for certain complications among racial and ethnic minority patients provides further evidence that certain racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionately affected by Covid-19 and that this disparity is not solely accounted for by age and underlying medical conditions,” write authors. 

What did the researchers find?

Since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, it has often been compared with the flu. President Donald Trump was also criticized when he recently claimed that Covid-19 is “far less lethal” than the flu. 

In the current analysis, to assess complications of coronavirus and influenza, the team looked at electronic health records from 3,948 hospitalized patients with Covid-19 (March 1-May 31, 2020) and 5,453 hospitalized patients with the flu (October 1, 2018-February 1, 2020) from the national Veterans Health Administration (VHA). It is the largest integrated healthcare system in the US. Risk ratios were calculated and adjusted for age, sex, race/ethnicity, and underlying medical conditions.

The findings reveal that the percentage of coronavirus patients admitted to an ICU (36.5%) was more than twice that of influenza patients (17.6%). The percentage of coronavirus patients who died while hospitalized (21%) was more than five times that of influenza patients (3.8%), and the duration of hospitalization was almost three times longer for Covid-19 patients. 

The percentage of coronavirus patients admitted to an ICU at 36.5% was more than twice that of influenza patients at 17.6% (Getty Images) 

Compared with patients with influenza, Covid-19 patients had almost 19 times the risk for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) than did patients with influenza, two times the risk for pneumonia, 1.7 times the risk for respiratory failure, and more than twice the risk for myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle), deep vein thrombosis (when a blood clot forms in one or more of the deep veins in the body), pulmonary embolism (blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs), intracranial hemorrhage (brain bleed), acute hepatitis/liver failure, bacteremia, and pressure ulcers. The risks for exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were lower among patients with coronavirus than among those with influenza.

Among patients with Covid-19, the risk for respiratory, neurologic, and renal complications, and sepsis was higher among non-Hispanic Black or African-American patients, patients of other races, and Hispanic or Latino (Hispanic) patients compared with those in non-Hispanic White patients, even after adjusting for age and underlying medical conditions. 

According to the authors, clinicians should be vigilant for symptoms and signs of a spectrum of complications among hospitalized patients with coronavirus so that interventions can be instituted to improve outcomes and reduce long-term disability. “These findings highlight the higher risk for most complications associated with Covid-19 compared with influenza and might aid clinicians and researchers in recognizing, monitoring, and managing the spectrum of Covid-19 manifestations,” suggests the CDC.

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