The coronavirus has been roughly three times more deadly in Florida than the state's deadliest flu season in a decade, according to Florida Department of Health data.
In roughly two months of COVID-19 death data, Florida has reported 1,268 deaths to the virus. Confirmed flu cases through eight months of data killed decade-high 468 Florida residents in 2009, records show, the Fort Myers News-Press reported.
"It does seem that we've definitely had more COVID-19 deaths this year than flu so far," University of Florida's Department of Epidemiology professor Cindy Prins told the paper. "A lot of people want to say, 'Oh, well, this is no worse than flu.' But, you know, I think that this is different than flu. It does seem to have higher mortality associated with it."
The report noted, however, the flu death reports are based only on confirmed cases. The flu is far less commonly tested. If data added pneumonia deaths – a common co-morbidity of the flu – would have brought Florida's 2018 death total to 3,068.
Flu mortality is believed to be 0.1% in the U.S., although that number is an estimate, because of the lack of concrete testing data. That number is with vaccines and treatments already in place, unlike COVID-19.
"You want to make sure that people are getting tested, and then when they test positive, there's quick follow-up to try to figure out who else might have been exposed and control those cases, and then the follow-up also has to include 'where have you been, what have you been doing?'" Prins told the paper.
The deadliest U.S. flu season in a decade happened in between October 2017 and April 2018, claiming 61,099 lives, when an estimated 35.5 million were sick with the flu, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Between Oct. 1 and April 4 of this year, the flu has claimed between 24,000 and 62,000 lives, according to that agency's preliminary estimates, the paper reported.
Coronavirus is a far more contagious than the flu, too, according to Lee Health's Dr. Stephanie Stovall.
"We don't have to cover our eyes [to treat flu patients], and we don't have to use the mask that's going to filter out the much smaller particles," Stovall told the paper. "So we have to use different protective equipment with this coronavirus."
Also, COVID-19 contagion last longer in patients than the flu – with or without symptoms.
"The longer incubation period for COVID-19 allowed the virus to move silently in different populations before being detected," University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy noted, per the paper. "This contributed to an initial environment of complacency before national governments became aware of the severity of the situation."
Also, it should be noted, the flu is mitigated by years of knowledge, treatments, and vaccines. COVID-19 is still in its scientific infancy.
"We don't have a good treatment, and we don't have a good vaccine," Stovall said, per the report. "None of those things are on the horizon.
"I don't believe we have a good grasp on whether or not immunity happens. I suspect that that'll be a long time coming."
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