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The Flu Is More Likely To Kill You Than COVID-19 If You’re 17 Or Younger, Statistics Show

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Adam Barnes General Assignment Reporter
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President Donald Trump has repeatedly used seasonal flu as a comparison point for coronavirus, both in terms of mortality rates and the government’s response strategy. Trump tweeted after his own bout with coronavirus that each year, thousands of Americans die from the flu, yet the United States economy remains open.

“Flu season is coming up!” Trump tweeted. “Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” (RELATED: Here’s What Trump Should Start Saying Immediately About How He’s Handled COVID-19)

Jason Drake, a professor at the University of Georgia, disputed Trump’s claim in a  Oct. 6 piece for Forbes where he broke down several differences between the two viruses.

“While it is true that seasonal influenza may cause tens of thousands of deaths every year, it does not cause the hundreds of thousands of Covid-19 deaths that have already happened or the millions of deaths predicted to happen in the absence of intervention,” Drake wrote.

“In the 2019-2020 flu season there were around 22,000 influenza deaths, or about one death for every 2000 symptomatic illnesses. In comparison, as of today there has been one death in the US for every 37 symptomatic cases of Covid-19,” he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has contributed to the death of over 1 million people worldwide, including nearly 215,000 Americans, since the first reported cases in China’s Wuhan Province in January.

COVID-19’s mortality rate varies widely across different age groups.

A breakdown of deaths with COVID-19 as a contributing factor shows a low death toll for younger Americans. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data beginning the weeks ending Feb. 1 and Oct. 3. there have been 441 coronavirus-related deaths among Americans between the ages of 1 and 24.

“Since March, 277,285 COVID-19 cases in children have been reported. COVID-19 incidence among adolescents aged 12–17 years was approximately twice that in children aged 5–11 years. Underlying conditions were more common among school-aged children with severe outcomes related to COVID-19,” according to a report released by the CDC on Oct. 2.

The COVID-19 death toll begins a steady increase between the ages of 18-24 and the data shows a rapid acceleration beginning at 55 years old, where those between the ages of 55 and 64 account for 25,421 deaths.

CDC Director Robert Redfield broke down the death rate in a U.S. Senate hearing Sept. 16. When asked by Republican Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy whether it was accurate to say that six out every 1,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19 die from the virus, Redfield said “It depends on the age and the risk factors.”

“So if you were to look right now, individuals under the age of 18, it’s about 0.01%, 18 to 19 to say 69, it’s more like 0.3%. And if you’re over the age of 70, it’s about 5% now,” Redfield said.

Johns Hopkins University, whose website hosts a comprehensive COVID-19 case tracker, warned that the upcoming flu season could exacerbate the effect of COVID-19 and slow the progress made against the virus.

“As the United States and the rest of the globe tries to gain its footing with a pandemic that has already killed nearly a million people and sickened almost 30 million, it faces another virus this fall that could devastate our progress thus far: the season flu,” Johns Hopkins University warned in a press release, per NBC. “That is, unless we take action now to minimize cases with effective, widespread vaccination.”

The age disparity in deaths between children ages 5 t0 17 and the rest of the population is also evident with the flu, according to CDC statistics.

There were approximately 35 million influenza cases in the U.S. in 2018-2019, according to CDC data. Out of those cases, there over 16 million medical visits, 490,000 hospitalizations and 34,000 deaths. The most lethal flu season, according to the same CDC data set, was 2017-18 when it was estimated that 61,000 died from the virus.

During the 2018-19 flu season, the CDC recorded 188 pediatric flu deaths. Children under age 5 accounted for 43% or 81 deaths; 107 deaths occurred in children aged 5 to 17 and out of 175 children with available medical documentation, 76 had a pre-existing medical condition.

White House Coronavirus Task Force member Dr. Anthony Fauci warned in August that young people who appear asymptomatic for COVID-19 could suffer from yet-unknown consequences.

“We’d better be careful when we say, ‘Young people who don’t wind up in the hospital are fine, let them get infected, it’s OK.’ No, it’s not OK,” Fauci said in speech to American Society for Microbiology.

“If we have this conversation again, six months to a year from now, we’ll be reviewing the literature about talking about the long-term deleterious effects of non-hospitalized patients,” Fauci said.