US COVID-19 outbreak soon to be deadlier than any flu since 1967

US COVID-19 outbreak soon to be deadlier than any flu since 1967

Healthcare workers gather for lunch outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center
Healthcare workers gather for lunch purchased by members of the New York City Police Department (NYPD) outside the Brooklyn Hospital Center. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

WASHINGTON: US deaths from the coronavirus exceeded 60,000 on Wednesday (Apr 29) and the outbreak will soon be deadlier than any flu season since 1967, according to a Reuters tally.

America's worst flu season in recent years was in 2017-2018 when more than 61,000 people died, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The only deadlier flu seasons were in 1967 when about 100,000 Americans died, 1957 when 116,000 died and the Spanish flu of 1918 when 675,000 died, according to the CDC.

The United States has the world's highest coronavirus death toll and a daily average of 2,000 people died in April of the highly contagious respiratory illness COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally.

The first US death was recorded on Feb 29 but recent testing in California indicates the first death might have been on Feb 6, with the virus circulating weeks earlier than previously thought.

On Wednesday, COVID-19 deaths in the United States eclipsed in a few months the 58,220 Americans killed during 16 years of US military involvement during the Vietnam War. Cases topped 1 million.

The latest real-time tally on Wednesday reported by Johns Hopkins University showed 2,502 coronavirus deaths in the US in the past 24 hours, taking the country's total to 60,853.

READ: US COVID-19 death toll exceeds Americans killed in Vietnam War as cases top 1 million

The actual number of cases is thought to be higher, with state public health officials cautioning that shortages of trained workers and materials have limited testing capacity.

The outbreak could take nearly 73,000 US lives by Aug 4, compared with an Apr 22 forecast of over 67,600, according to the University of Washington's predictive model, often cited by White House officials.

In early March, the prospect that the coronavirus would kill more Americans than the flu was unthinkable to many politicians who played down the risk of the new virus.

READ: US decade of growth ends as virus contracts GDP by 4.8%

President Donald Trump tweeted on Mar 9: "So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!"

On Mar 11, Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told New Yorkers during a radio interview to eat out at restaurants if they were not sick.

That same day, top US infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci warned Congress that the coronavirus was at least 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.

There is as yet no treatment or vaccine for coronavirus while flu vaccines are widely available along with treatments.

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Source: Reuters/de