How does the coronavirus compare to other deadly viruses?

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How does the coronavirus compare to other deadly viruses?


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PARIS, France – The global death toll from COVID-19 surpassed three million on Saturday, with the pandemic having already killed more people than most other viral epidemics of the 20th and 21st centuries.

But there were notable exceptions. The post-World War I Spanish flu wiped out 50 million people, by some estimates. And, over the decades, AIDS has killed 33 million people.

Here are some comparisons:

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Flu epidemics

In 2009, the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, caused a global pandemic and left an official death toll of 18,500.

This was then revised upwards by the medical journal The Lancet to between 151,700 and 575,400 dead.

This brings it closer to the seasonal flu, which kills between 290,000 and 650,000 people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization.

Israelis line up for flu shots on December 25, 2015 during a swine flu outbreak (FLASH90)

In the 20th century, two major non-seasonal flu pandemics – the Asian flu in 1957-1958 and the Hong Kong flu in 1968-1970 – each killed around one million people, according to subsequent counts.

The biggest disaster of modern pandemics to date, the 1918-19 flu pandemic also known as the Spanish flu, wiped out some 50 million people according to a study published in the 2000s.

Other viral epidemics

The death toll from COVID-19, which emerged in central China at the end of 2019, is far higher than that from Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which was first identified in 1976.

In four decades, periodic Ebola outbreaks have killed some 15,000 people, all in Africa.

Ebola has a much higher death rate than COVID-19: around 50% of those infected die from it.

Illustration: Health workers dressed in protective gear start their shift at an Ebola treatment center in Beni, Congo DRC, July 16, 2019 (AP Photo / Jerome Delay)

But Ebola is less contagious than other viral diseases, not least because it is not airborne but transmitted by direct and close contact.

AIDS is by far the deadliest modern epidemic: nearly 33 million people worldwide have died from the disease, which affects the immune system.

No effective vaccine has been found, but retroviral drugs, when taken regularly, effectively stop the disease and greatly reduce the risk of infection.

This treatment has helped bring the death toll from its peak of 1.7 million in 2004 to 690,000 in 2019, according to UNAIDS.

Hepatitis B and C viruses also have a high death toll, killing some 1.3 million people each year, most often in poor countries.

In 2002-2003, the predecessor of COVID, SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which emerged from China, was the first coronavirus to spark global fears, but only killed 774 people in the latest toll.

Three million equals …

For comparison, the figure of three million people is slightly more than the population of Jamaica or Armenia.

It is also three times the toll of the Iran-Iraq war which raged from 1980 to 1988, ie 2,000 times more than the 1,500 dead in the sinking of the Titanic.


Cemetery workers in protective gear walk towards the funeral of a woman who died of complications from COVID-19 at Inahuma cemetery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, April 13, 2021 (AP Photo / Silvia Izquierdo, folder)

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

This is as much as the 10,000 children who die of hunger every day in the world, according to the UN.

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