Story at a glance

  • Researchers found 21 percent of COVID-19 patients died in the hospital compared with 3.8 percent of those who died while hospitalized with the flu.
  • COVID-19 patients were hospitalized nearly three times longer than flu patients and had a higher risk of 17 respiratory and nonrespiratory complications — including more than twice the risk of pneumonia.
  • Researchers said Black and Hispanic patients were at higher risk for respiratory, neurologic and kidney complications than white patients.

Coronavirus patients are five times more likely to experience complications and die in the hospital than hospitalized flu patients, a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tuesday says. 

The CDC assessed data from the national Veterans Health Administration that included health records of nearly 4,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 between March and May 31 and 5,453 patients hospitalized with influenza between Oct. 1, 2018 and Feb. 1, 2020. 


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Researchers found 21 percent of COVID-19 patients died in the hospital compared with 3.8 percent of those who died while hospitalized with the flu. 

“Findings from a large, national cohort of patients hospitalized within the VHA illustrate the increased risk for complications involving multiple organ systems among patients with COVID-19 compared with those with influenza, as well as racial/ethnic disparities in COVID-19-associated complications,” the CDC report said. 

COVID-19 patients were hospitalized nearly three times longer than flu patients and had a higher risk of 17 respiratory and nonrespiratory complications — including more than twice the risk of pneumonia. They were also twice as likely to need intensive care and 19 times more likely to experience acute respiratory distress syndrome. 

Influenza patients were more likely to experience worsened asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Coronavirus patients were slightly older on average and flu patients had more underlying conditions. Researchers said Black and Hispanic patients were at higher risk for respiratory, neurologic and kidney complications than white patients. 

“Compared with influenza, COVID-19 is associated with increased risk for most respiratory and nonrespiratory complications. Certain racial and ethnic minority groups are disproportionally affected by COVID-19,” the CDC said. 

The CDC estimates there were about 22,000 influenza deaths last flu season with 38 million infections. As of Tuesday, more than 220,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. since the outbreak began earlier this year and more than 8.2 million have been infected. 


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Published on Oct 20, 2020