This Is Exactly How Much Deadlier COVID Is Than the Flu, Study Says

These mortality rates show the biggest difference between COVID-19 and the flu.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus has drawn comparison to other illnesses, from the flu to SARS. Many have been keen to say the coronavirus is only as harmful as the seasonal flu, but experts have cautioned the general public not to equate COVID-19 to other diseases, as it has proven to be a beast of its own. According to researchers who performed random testing in Indiana, COVID-19 is six times deadlier than the flu.

The shortage of testing in the U.S. complicated acquiring comprehensive, accurate data, so officials in Indiana decided to perform random testing to try to close the gap in knowledge of COVID. Nir Menachemi, PhD, wrote in Live Science that he and his team set out to randomly select and test thousands of Indiana residents between April 25 and May 1.

"From this testing, we were able to get some of the first truly representative data on coronavirus infection rates at a state level," said Menachemi. The data demonstrated that 2.8 percent of the state's population had been infected with COVID-19, and allowed researchers to calculate how deadly COVID-19 truly is.

Man laying in hospital bed with coronavirus

According to Menachemi, the study estimated that during that week of sampling, "1.7 percent of the population had active viral infections. An additional 1.1 percent had antibodies, showing evidence of previous infection." This brought the researchers to the estimation that "2.8 percent of the population currently were or had previously been infected with the coronavirus with 95 percent confidence that the actual infection rate is between 2 percent and 3.7 percent."

Having reliable data that was obtained via random testing gave the researchers the ability to calculate the fatality rate. The study found that "based on the estimated total number of infections, the estimated infection-fatality rate was 0.58 percent or approximately six times the 0.1 percent mortality rate for influenza."

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The Wall Street Journal compiled data from various studies on mortality rate and found that "COVID-19 kills from around 0.3 percent to 1.5 percent of people infected. Most studies put the rate between 0.5 percent and 1.0 percent, meaning that for every 1,000 people who get infected, from five to 10 would die on average."

These numbers show that COVID-19 is, in fact, deadlier than the flu—but not as deadly as Ebola, SARS, or MERS. Much of the danger with COVID lies in its infectiousness: According to The Wall Street Journal, the coronavirus is killing more people than diseases with higher mortality rates because it is highly infectious. And for more on COVID mortality, This Exact Temperature Increase Slashes COVID Deaths, Study Finds.

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