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Excess Mortality During Peak of 1918 Flu Similar to COVID-19 in NYC

Incidence rate ratio for all-cause mortality 0.70 during peak of 1918 H1N1 flu, early COVID-19

FRIDAY, Aug. 14, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Excess mortality during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic was comparable to that seen early in the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in New York City, according to a research letter published online Aug. 13 in JAMA Network Open.

Jeremy Samuel Faust, M.D., from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, and colleagues compared all-cause mortality in New York City during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the early COVID-19 outbreak. The incidence rate per person-months was calculated for October and November (61 days) from 1914 through 1918 and for March 11 through May 11, 2020 (61 days).

The researchers identified 31,589 all-cause deaths among 5,500,000 residents during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza outbreak in New York City (incident rate, 287.17 deaths per 100,000 person-months). The incidence rate ratio for all-cause mortality was 2.80 during the H1N1 influenza pandemic versus the corresponding periods from 1914 to 1917. During the early COVID-19 outbreak, there were 33,465 all-cause deaths among 8,280,000 residents (incident rate, 202.08 deaths per 100,000 person-months). The incident rate ratio for all-cause mortality was 4.15 during the study period of 2020 compared with the corresponding periods of 2017 through 2019. The incidence rate ratio for all-cause mortality was 0.70 during the peak of the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic and the early COVID-19 outbreak.

"We believe that our findings may help officials and the public contextualize the unusual magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic," the authors write.

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