Is COVID More Harmful Than Other Deadly Viruses?

The death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic has surpassed the three million death toll, far more than most viral epidemics of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, with the notable exceptions of the dire Spanish flu and AIDS.

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Excluding epidemics to figure out what those three million deaths represent, that’s three times the Iran-Iraq war, 2,000 times the deaths of the Titanic or the Armenian equivalent.

COVID-19 has already claimed more lives than most influenza epidemics of the 20th and 21st centuries.

In 2009, influenza A (H1N1), known as swine, officially killed 18,500 people. But then that estimate was revised up by the medical journal The Lancet to increase between 151,700 and 575,400 deaths, an estimate comparable to estimates for seasonal flu, which the WHO says kill between 290,000 and 650,000 people a year.

In the twentieth century, two major influenza pandemics associated with new viruses, the 1957-58 pandemic known as the Asian influenza and the 1968-70 pandemic known as the Hong Kong flu, claimed the lives of about a million people a posteriori.

By some estimates, the great flu of 1918-1919, known as the “Spanish”, in turn killed 50 million people.

The preliminary losses from the new coronavirus are already much higher than from Ebola. Since 1976, Ebola has killed about 15,000 people, exclusively in Africa. This virus is more deadly than Sars-Cov-2 (according to the WHO, about 50% of patients die from it), but much less infectious.

AIDS, for which there is still no effective vaccine 50 years after its appearance, has killed nearly 33 million people, 11 times more than COVID-19, which, however, appeared much later.

Thanks to the proliferation of antiretroviral therapy, the annual number of AIDS deaths has fallen since its peak in 2004 (1.7 million deaths). According to UNAIDS, the death toll in 2019 was 690,000.

As for the hepatitis B and C viruses, they kill about 1.3 million people every year, especially in poor countries.

The predecessor of Sars-Cov-2, Sars-Cov-1, which caused the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) epidemic in 2002-2003, resulted in only 774 deaths.

To represent the losses from the current pandemic, this figure of three million is slightly more than the population of Jamaica, Armenia or Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

This is also three times more than in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), or 2,000 times more than as a result of the sinking of the Titanic (1,500 people). That’s also 375 times the capacity of Symphony of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, which can accommodate 8,000 people.

Over the past month, more than 10,000 people have died from the coronavirus every day.

According to the UN, this is the same as 10,000 children who die of hunger every day in the world.

This is also more than three times the number of victims of the attack on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 in New York.

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