Is COVID-19 truly deadlier than flu?

Is COVID-19 truly deadlier than flu?

Last Reviewed : 12/23/2020
Is COVID-19 truly deadlier than flu?

At the time of writing this article, there are around 200,000 confirmed cases and 4,000 deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. As this pandemic progresses, these numbers can rise exponentially. Without availability of vaccine and good treatment options, death rate can continue to rise over the next few months.

As per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that there were around 45 million people who were affected with seasonal flu in 2017-2018 season and around 35 million people in 2018-2019 season. The number of deaths due to flu was estimated to be around 61,000 in 2017-2018 season and around 34,000 in 2018-2019. These are preliminary results as per CDC and the numbers may change once the data is confirmed. But this data is similar to previous seasons.

Death rate due to COVID-19 is estimated to be around 2% based on the studies published so far from China and based on the number of confirmed cases and deaths that occurred in the United States. It means that around two people die among hundred affected with COVID-19. This number is probably not accurate as thousands of affected people are not being tested due to lack of availability of testing or people with mild symptoms may not even recognize the illness and the need to be tested. If all the affected people are included, the death rate may drop below 2%. Death rate due to flu is estimated to be around 0.1% based on CDC data. It means that one person among thousand affected with flu die.

While death rate among COVID-19 infected people (around 2%) is higher than the death rate due to flu (around 0.1%), number of deaths related to flu is sobering. COVID-19 pandemic is still evolving and there may be more mortality in the next few months, however, these pandemics occur once in a decade. Every flu season, we have more than 30,000 deaths and more than 400,000 hospitalizations in the United States. COVID-19 pandemic is a serious concern but we also need to take necessary measures to reduce flu related cases and flu reated deaths every season.



  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Coronavirus (COVID-19).
  2. Wu YC et al. The outbreak of COVID-19: An overview. J Chin Med Assoc. 2020 Mar;83(3):217-220. doi: 10.1097/JCMA.0000000000000270.
  3. Guan W et al. Clinical characteristics of coronavirus disease 2019 in China. N Engl J Med. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa2002032

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