‘The flu kills more people than coronavirus’

May 11, 2020
Last year there were around 900 flu-related deaths in Australia. Source: Getty.

At the time of writing, 97 people have died from coronavirus in Australia. The death of a loved one is always a tragedy. But it’s important to remember that the majority of people who have died from coronavirus in Australia were living in high-dependency nursing homes or had some other significant underlying health condition. And if Covid-19 wasn’t the final cause of their demise, it’s likely that some other condition or infection would probably have occurred at some stage over the next few months.

It’s also important to mention that our infection numbers and death rates are much lower than many other countries around the world, which must be attributed to the superb work to date from the government and health authorities but also the extraordinary cooperation from the public in abiding by the social distancing measures. I have mentioned in previous pieces my position on why Australia has done so well compared to other countries like the United States, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Interestingly, last year, during a relatively weak flu season, Australia had 900 deaths in around four months. It was not announced on the news on a regular basis that yet another elderly person with clearly serious co-morbid conditions had died from influenza. The reality is that very sick, elderly people die and typically it’s some type of infection that pushes them over the line. The Covid-19 pandemic has certainly precipitated the death of many people around the world but the reality is that the vast majority of people who have succumbed to this virus were already quite ill.

Every year in Australia alone, there are around 170,000 deaths. In the vast majority of cases, these people die from acute or chronic complications of cardiovascular disease or cancer. Conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and osteoporosis are also significant underlying factors for many people. Meanwhile, infections like Covid-19, influenza, pneumonia or any bacterial infections purely worsen the underlying condition, often leading to death. The reality is that the death rates from Covid-19 are probably just a bit above a bad dose of the flu, so why don’t we have the same response to flu season every year?

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