People with severe flu do much better than those with COVID-19, study shows

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In a new study, researchers showed how patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19 fared, compared to those hospitalized with severe seasonal influenza.

The study is believed to be the first in the U.S. to directly compare clinical features, testing results and health outcomes between patients with the two diseases.

The research was conducted by a team at the University of Washington.

In the study, the team checked the medical records of 65 patients critically ill with COVID-19 and 74 with severe influenza A or B who were admitted to the intensive care units (ICUs).

A key finding was that COVID-19 patients had in-hospital death rates of 40% versus 19% for influenza patients.

This higher mortality rate was independent of the patients’ age, gender, co-occurring health conditions, and severity of illness while in the ICU.

The team found that patients with both diseases frequently required mechanical ventilation.

Compared to those with influenza, however, ICU patients with COVID-19 needed to remain on mechanical ventilation longer and had worse lung functioning overall.

Patients with COVID were also more likely to develop acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening illness in which the lungs become severely inflamed.

The finding that ARDS may be more prevalent among critically ill patients with COVID is important in understanding why there may be a mortality difference between the two diseases.

The team also found that patients with ARDS due to COVID-19 had a trend toward worse clinical outcomes than ARDS patients with influenza.

The researchers also looked at various characteristics of patients in the two groups.

COVID-19 patients had slower improvements in blood oxygen levels, longer duration of mechanical ventilation, and lower rates of extubation (removal of breathing tubes) than the influenza patients.

Patients with COVID-19 were also more likely to be male, have higher body mass index (BMI) and higher rates of chronic kidney disease and diabetes.

The researchers noted that, early in the COVID outbreak, many comparisons were made between infection with COVID-19 and influenza, which is responsible for a significant number of hospitalizations and deaths, both in the U.S. and globally.

While previous studies did not directly compare COVID and influenza, research has shown that there are important differences between the diseases in the proportion of individuals who develop severe illness and mortality.

As the flu season comes and it is likely that the nation is seeing the start of a second, or possibly third, the surge in COVID cases, the team believes that their findings have real-world public health implications.

They strongly encourage people to get the flu vaccine and continue social distancing measures and masking to limit the spread of COVID-19.

One author of the study is Natalie L. Cobb, MD, MPH.

The study is published in the Annals of the American Thoracic Society.

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