Carried out on nearly 130,000 patients hospitalized in public or private hospitals in France, a study by the National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) and the Dijon University Hospital published on Friday, December 18, shows that the Covid-19 causes three times as many deaths as the seasonal flu.
This study compares hospital admissions for Covid-19 in spring 2020 with hospitalizations for seasonal influenza between December 1, 2018 and February 28, 2019. The researchers thus found that the mortality rate of patients hospitalized with Covid- 19 is 16.9%, with 15,104 deaths out of 89,530 hospitalizations between March 1 and April 30, 2020, while for seasonal influenza, the mortality rate is 5.8%, with 2,640 deaths out of 45 819 hospitalizations.
According to this study, more patients with Covid-19 had to be hospitalized in intensive care. The average stay is also almost twice as long as for the flu, 15 days versus 8 days. The researchers also noted that while there are fewer children under the age of 18 to have been hospitalized for Covid-19 compared to the seasonal flu, on the other hand there are proportionately more children under the age of five. years of being admitted to hospital.
At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were nearly twice as many people hospitalized as at the height of the 2018/2019 flu season. Likewise, there is a greater proportion of people infected with the coronavirus admitted to intensive care than those with the flu (16.3% against 10.8%). Patients affected by Covid-19 are also more prone to respiratory failure. A quarter of patients have it, compared to one in five with the flu.
However, the researchers behind the study point out that their study “includes several limits”. So “Flu screening practices have probably been variable from one hospital to another, while screening for Covid-19 may have been more standardized”. This factor may explain “in part” the increased number of patients hospitalized for Covid-19 compared to the flu. The study authors also point out that “the difference in hospitalization rates may be partially due to existing immunity to influenza in the population, either as a result of a previous infection or of vaccination.”
Despite these precautions, the researchers’ work confirms the importance of measures to prevent the spread of the two diseases. The observation that the Covid-19 kills more than the flu “is particularly striking” when we remember that “the 2018/2019 influenza season was the worst in the last five years in France in terms of the number of deaths”. Inserm would like to point out that at present, “no treatment has yet been shown to be effective in preventing serious illness in patients with Covid-19”. For the public establishment, this study highlights “the importance of all preventive measures (barrier measures) and highlights the need to have access to effective vaccines”.
The results of this study are published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine.