There is plenty of misinformation regarding COVID-19 floating around, and we know filtering out the facts from the fiction can be difficult.
Complicating matters, we learn more about this new virus and how to combat it daily, meaning information and recommendations can become outdated rather quickly. That is why since the start of the pandemic, Gritman Medical Center has been committed to being transparent and ensuring you have access to up-to-date, useful and reliable information on the deadly virus.
We recently took a few moments to visit with our chief medical officer, Dr. John Brown, to discuss one persistent myth about COVID-19 and a second that recently started to make its rounds.
Dr. Brown has decades of experience in health care. He received his medical degree from the University of Southern California before completing an internship and residency at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Georgia. He has been an emergency physician at Gritman since 1998 and chief medical officer since 2018.
Myth #1: COVID-19 is no more dangerous than seasonal flu.
Both the flu and COVID-19 are contagious respiratory illnesses that affect your lungs and breathing. Both viruses can cause fever, cough, body aches and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. Both can result in pneumonia. Other symptoms of COVID-19 include shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, loss of taste or smell, sore throat and congestion or runny nose.
While the seasonal flu can cause severe illness, hospitalization and death, Dr. Brown said, data shows COVID-19 is considerably more lethal. According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the mortality rate of COVID-19 is about .6% – six times that of a typical flu season.
During the 2018-19 flu season, according to the CDC, an estimated 34,157 Americans died from the flu. As of Sept. 14, more than 190,000 deaths in the U.S. have been attributed to COVID-19 since March.
You can protect yourself from both viruses by wearing a facemask, frequent and thorough hand washing and socially distancing from others.
Myth #2: Only 6% of reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are solely attributable to COVID-19.
Like many stories making their rounds on social media, this one is quite misleading.
In late August, the CDC posted on its website a detailed breakdown of the accompanying health conditions (or comorbidities) and contributing causes of death reported in Americans who have died from the coronavirus. The CDC noted COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned in 6% of the deaths.
While some have taken the data to mean the other 94% of deaths should not be attributed to COVID-19, Dr. Brown said that would be a misinterpretation.
What it really means:
- 6% of people who died when they had COVID-19 didn’t have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and didn’t experience any medical complications, such as kidney failure or sepsis.
- The remaining 94% of deaths were still caused by COVID-19. In these deaths, the victims, however, had chronic, underlying conditions – like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma and obesity – they otherwise might have recovered from.
“The CDC put this information out to help us to see which comorbid conditions make you at greater risk for mortality,” Dr. Brown said. “Viruses like influenza and COVID-19 kill vulnerable people, and people with comorbidities are vulnerable.”