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Covid poses a “much more serious threat” than the flu, a new study revealed, as the latest viral strain sweeps across the US.
The study comparatively analysed 18 months of follow-up of hospital admissions for those with Covid and those with the seasonal flu, finding that Covid patients experienced significantly higher rates of death and adverse health outcomes.
Covid has proved to be much more contagious compared to the flu and it causes clotting problems in veins and arteries, according to the study published on December 14 in The Lancet.
Ziyad Al-Aly, the director of the Clinical Epidemiology Center at the Veterans Affairs Saint Louis Health Care System and senior author of the study, said to Fortune: “Covid remains a much more serious threat to human health than the flu.
“This was evident in pre-Delta, Delta, and Omicron (strains), and evident in both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.”
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The study arrives as the US sees a significant rise in Covid-related hospitalisations, with 15 states reporting high or very high levels of respiratory illness – including Covid, the flu, and RSV.
New Covid variant JN.1 is now the fastest-growing variant in the country, and it is heavily mutated.
Some doctors are concerned that the variant’s rapid growth rate and ability to spread could cause a Covid surge as the US enters the winter season.
How to spot it
It is unclear whether JN.1 causes symptoms different from other variants, according to the CDC, but its symptoms seem to be similar to those caused by other strains.
These symptoms include: sore throat, congestion, runny nose, cough, fatigue, headache, muscle aches, fever or chills, and a loss of sense of taste or smell.
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The severity of a person’s symptoms usually depends on their underlying health and immunity.
Al-Aly said about the new variant: “The objective evidence is clear, whether it is a first infection or reinfection, Covid is still a serious threat to human health.”
Al-Aly’s study found that Covid’s enhanced risk list includes cardiac arrest, stroke, chronic kidney disease, and cognitive impairment to mental health and fatigue – often associated with long Covid.
By comparison, the season flu was associated with increased risk in only six specified conditions.
Al-Aly said: “Covid is really a multi-systemic disease, and flu is more a respiratory virus.”
But he added that while Covid poses a greater risk, the seasonal flu should still be taken seriously, as it remains “a formidable foe”.
He said: “Going into this winter season where cases of Covid and flu are rising, people should make sure they are vaccinated for both, and for RSV if they qualify, and take precautions to lower their risk.”
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