The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a renewed focus on respiratory illnesses and their impact on public health. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association has shed light on the comparative mortality rates of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and influenza during the past flu season.
The study, conducted by researchers Yan Xie, Taeyoung Choi, and Ziyad Al-Aly from the VA St. Louis Health Care System's Clinical Epidemiology Center, analyzed data from 11,399 predominantly older male veterans hospitalized with either COVID-19 or influenza between October 1, 2022, and January 31, 2023. The findings revealed a higher mortality rate among patients hospitalized for COVID-19 compared to those hospitalized for influenza.
Specifically, the study found that 5.98% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 died within 30 days, compared to 3.16% of influenza patients. Furthermore, the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 was between two and three times higher than the number of patients hospitalized for influenza during the study period.
The researchers noted that the mortality rates among people hospitalized with COVID-19 had decreased compared to early in the pandemic, when they were between 17 and 21% in 2020. This decline in death rates may be attributed to changes in SARS-CoV-2 variants, increased immunity levels from vaccination and prior infection, and improved clinical care.
However, the study also highlighted a concerning trend: the increased risk of death was greater among unvaccinated individuals compared with those vaccinated or boosted. This finding underscores the importance of vaccination in reducing the risk of COVID-19 death.
The study's methodology involved the use of electronic health databases of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The researchers controlled for variables such as age, race, body mass index, smoking status, prior history of COVID-19 infection, and other health and demographic factors.
In conclusion, the study provides valuable insights into the comparative risks of COVID-19 and influenza, emphasizing the importance of vaccination and the ongoing need for vigilance in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. As we continue to navigate this public health crisis, such research is crucial in informing policy decisions and public health strategies.