19 Aug How Do COVID-19 Deaths in NYC Compare to Spanish Flu in 1918?
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeremy Samuel Faust, M.D., M.S., M.A., FACEP
Brigham & Women’s Hospital Department of Emergency Medicine
Division of Health Policy and Public Health
Instructor, Harvard Medical School
President, Roomful of Teeth Vocal Arts Project (www.roomfulofteeth.org)
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: We sought to compare the initial covid-19 outbreak in NYC to the peak of the 1918 H1N1 pandemic in that same city. We found that the covid-19 pandemic was associated with more than 70% as many deaths per capita (monthly) as 1918 H1N1 was. But because baseline mortality rates are about 1/2 of what they were a century ago, death rates were over 400% of usual rates in March and April of this year compared to recent years, while 1918 was “merely” over 280% of usual death rates from prior years leading up to it.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: These crises are comparable in their impact on society. We’ve already had 150,000 deaths in the US and it’s unclear what percent of the population has been infected. We need to slow down the spread so that if a vaccine is shown to work, we save the most number of lives. If we don’t, we could eventually surpass 1918’s numbers.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: It’s likely that other cities that came after New York will have flatter but longer curves because of better understanding of the importance of non-pharmacologic interventions such as masks and phased re-openings and pauses. We’ll need to follow excess deaths for longer to see how this unfolds in other areas. It could be that New York was a worst case scenario. Or it could be that other areas may experience similar outbreaks this Fall. We don’t yet know. What we do know is that this pandemic can be said to have “1918-like potential.
Faust JS, Lin Z, del Rio C. Comparison of Estimated Excess Deaths in New York City During the COVID-19 and 1918 Influenza Pandemics. JAMA Netw Open. 2020;3(8):e2017527. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.17527
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