Comparing COVID-19, Flu Death Tolls 'Extremely Dangerous'

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Medscape Medical News

Dr. Natasha Chida was interviewed for this article.

However, Natasha Chida, MD, MSPH, an infectious disease physician and assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, told Medscape Medical News that the actual number of deaths doesn't tell the complete flu story either. That count would miss people who later died from secondary complications associated with influenza, she said.

"There's just no way to reliably count influenza deaths," she said. "I think if we required it as a reported illness, that would be the ideal situation, but there's so much flu every year that that probably would not be practical."

She said she agrees that rates of influenza deaths and rates of COVID-19 deaths cannot be fairly compared.

What the authors don't touch on, she said, is that flu season lasts 4 to 6 months a year, and just 3 months into the coronavirus pandemic, US deaths due to COVID-19 are already higher than those for seasonal influenza.

"Even if we look at it in the way that people who think we can compare flu and coronavirus do, it's still not going to work out in their favor from a numbers standpoint," she said.