COVID-19 remains a worse killer than flu, new study finds

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COVID-19 hospitalizations see higher mortality rate than influenza: VA study.

NEW YORK, May 16: A recent analysis of Veterans Affairs data has revealed that patients hospitalized with COVID-19 faced a higher risk of mortality compared to those hospitalized with influenza during the fall and winter of 2023-2024.

Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly and colleagues from the VA St. Louis Health Care System conducted the study, examining over 11,000 patients hospitalized for either illness during the specified period. Their findings, published in a research letter in JAMA, indicate that 5.7% of patients with COVID-19 died within 30 days of admission, whereas 4.24% of patients with influenza succumbed to the illness.

After adjusting for various factors, the researchers found that the risk of death among COVID-19 patients was 35% higher compared to those with influenza (adjusted HR 1.35, 95% CI 1.10-1.66). Dr. Al-Aly noted that these results were unexpected, as there was a prevailing belief that COVID-19 mortality rates had diminished.

The study also highlighted the substantial difference in hospitalizations between COVID-19 and influenza during the 2023-2024 season, with nearly twice as many hospitalizations for COVID-19 compared to influenza. However, despite the higher mortality associated with COVID-19, the risk had decreased compared to the previous season.

Dr. Al-Aly stressed the importance of continued vigilance against COVID-19, emphasizing that the pandemic is still a significant health threat. Despite pandemic fatigue, he urged individuals to take the virus seriously and adhere to preventive measures.

Interestingly, the study found no significant difference in mortality risk between patients hospitalized for COVID-19 before and during the emergence of the JN.1 variant of SARS-CoV-2, suggesting that this variant may not be more severe than previous strains.

The analysis, conducted using VA electronic health records across all 50 states, included patients admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of COVID-19 or influenza between October 1, 2023, and March 27, 2024. The study’s cohort comprised 8,625 participants hospitalized for COVID-19 and 2,647 participants hospitalized for seasonal influenza.

While the study population was predominantly older and male, limiting generalizability to other populations, the findings underscore the ongoing threat posed by COVID-19 and the need for continued monitoring and preventive measures.

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