A new study has confirmed that COVID-19 is indeed “far more serious” than the seasonal flu.
The study was based on French national data from 89,530 patients hospitalised with COVID-19 in 2020 and 45,819 patients hospitalised with seasonal influenza in 2018-19, with the results published this week in the Lancet Respiratory Medicine journal.
Researchers compared the data and found that nearly twice as many people were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 at the height of the pandemic than were for influenza at the peak of the 2018/2019 flu season.
Death rates among hospitalised COVID-19 patients were three times higher than flu, more patients with COVID-19 required intensive care, and the average stay in ICU with COVID-19 was nearly twice as long, the study found.
Although fewer children aged under 18 years were hospitalised with COVID-19 compared with seasonal flu, a larger proportion of those aged under five required intensive care for COVID-19.
The researchers said their findings reinforce the importance of measures to prevent the spread of both diseases and are particularly relevant as several countries prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic to overlap with outbreaks of seasonal influenza.
Catherine Quantin from the University hospital of Dijon was a co-led the study.
“Our study is the largest to date to compare the two diseases and confirms that COVID-19 is far more serious than the flu,” Professor Qauntin said.
“The finding that the COVID-19 death rate was three times higher than for seasonal influenza is particularly striking when reminded that the 2018/2019 flu season had been the worst in the past five years in France in terms of number of deaths.”
In line with previous reports, the most common underlying medical conditions among patients admitted with COVID-19 were high blood pressure, being overweight or obese, or diabetes.
Study co-lead Pascale Tubert-Bitter, a research director at L’Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (Inserm) and the University Paris-Saclay, France, said the findings show the importance of physical distancing and vaccines.
“Taken together, our findings clearly indicate that COVID-19 is much more serious than seasonal influenza,” Dr Tubert-Bitter said.
“At a time when no treatment has been shown to be effective at preventing severe disease in COVID-19 patients, this study highlights the importance of all measures of physical prevention and underlines the importance of effective vaccines.”