October 7, 2020
Global Study Of Hospitalized Patients Confirms Coronavirus Is Nothing Like The Flu

A new study released on Tuesday by the Observational Health Data Sciences and Informatics (OHDSI) community compared the characteristics of patients suffering from the novel coronavirus to characteristics of hospitalized influenza patients.

Published in Nature Communications, the study included data from 34,128 coronavirus patients from across three continents. More than 8,000 were from the United States, 7,341 from South Korea and 18,425 from Spain.

In the United States, those hospitalized with severe cases of coronavirus were more often male and aged between 60 and 75. In South Korea they were more often female. In all three countries, patients hospitalized with the flu were typically older than those suffering severe cases of coronavirus and more likely to be female.

Comorbidities (underlying medical conditions) were common among individuals hospitalized with coronavirus. For example, across the three nations, the prevalence of hypertensive disorder ranged from 24 to 70 percent. Still, those hospitalized with coronavirus "were seen to generally be healthier" than influenza patients.

According to Edward Burn, who is one of the lead authors, this research "has allowed us to better understand the profiles of patients" with severe cases of coronavirus.

"Despite recent discourse around the supposed poor health and limited life expectancy of COVID-19 patients, we see COVID-19 patients to be in no worse health than those typically hospitalized with influenza. This further highlights the high rate of mortality among COVID-19 patients."
Co-lead author Seng Chan You added that this study -- which was conducted without violating patients' privacy -- could have major implications for future research and help mitigate the impact of similar viruses.

"It's important to know this is possible because we don't know what is coming next. When is the next pandemic? Whatever happens, we know we can provide important patient characteristics to allow collaborative global research," You said.

The Intensive Care unit at Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England.
Getty Images | Neil Hall - Pool

Per Johns Hopkins Medicine, there are some similarities between coronavirus and the common flu. Both diseases are caused by viruses and can cause fever, body aches, cough and result in pneumonia. They spread in similar ways, mostly through respiratory droplets.

However, according to the report, the novel coronavirus is far more dangerous and deadlier than the flu. It can cause serious, long-term damage to lungs, brain, kidneys and other vital organs. Since a vaccine has not yet been developed, several different therapies are being tested in hospitals across the world.

Contradicting scientific data, some prominent public figures have downplayed the ongoing pandemic. Notably, U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly suggested that coronavirus is not as dangerous as most believe. In a tweet earlier this week, he argued against lockdowns and similar measures, suggesting that there is very little difference between the two diseases.