« 99.4% art, 0.6% data | Main | Why FDA says stick to the test »


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Michael Droy

In a bad year, the flu kills ~40,000. So this "flu" is still causing 10 times as many deaths... with almost 60% of the population fully vaccinated with two doses, some with three doses.

Is Covid-19 like the flu? That was the question from day 1 of the pandemic. Has Covid-19 become like the flu? That is the shocking claim of some experts.

Health analysis always used to be done using QALYs - quality adjusted life years. For 2 years the term QALY has disappeared from all conversations.
But any Flu vs Covid 19 comparison demands a QALY lost analysis not a death count. Flu certainly can kill otherwise healthy patients in a way Covid almost never dows.

Then you have the "death certificate issue" now as with or by Covid.
In US a bad year is, you say, 40k flu deaths. In the UK a bad year (1999) is 60,000 flu & pneumonia deaths (counted together, half that in a good year). 0.1% of the population.
Roughly 350k by US standards and close to the level of Covid last year. And yet the US in recent years has reported death by Flu & Pneumonia of 50-60k.

Table 5.
I summed up the deaths by years.

I'm not arguing that a 350k equivalent is roughly the same as 400k Covid deaths. But clearly there are different recording practices in flu deaths between US & UK and that recording practice have a huge impact on totals. It gives us a clue about the difference in reporting practices between flu and Covid inside the UK or inside US.
What ever a fair balance of deaths is, both practices and the impact on QALYs means your 10 to 1 ratio is clearly a double exaggeration.

Time to recognise that the real impact of Covid from 2022 onwards is going to be 1 to 2 times the impact of Flu, while we will benefit from reduced victims of flu.

BTW as a resident of UK I can assure you that most of the media follow the fear porn version of the covid story, and the libertarian version is very low key. Only recently is anyone talking about how most covid hospitalisations are of patients who entered hospital for non-covid reasons.

I do hope in Part 2 you will address the impact that addressing Covid full on has lead to other health services, health and deaths from traditional sources, and in particular the impact of health services over the past 30 years on the incredible reductions we have seen in deaths / increase in Life Expectancy.

I'm also very curious about any ideas of how we can differentiate going forward between excess deaths from Covid, reduced deaths because Covid victims died early, and increased deaths due to other Time of Covid factors (economic, social and health service).
It seems to me that


MD: No one can dispute your argument since it is based on unverifiable assumptions of what certain governments did or did not do relative to specific data series, including claims of massive counting errors on some data but not others. Yet in your comment on my other post, you also believe that a massive prediction error is nothing to sneeze at. If one has license to invent one's data, then all stories are possible.

Michael Droy

Ditto your claim (that I quoted) that
In a bad year, the flu kills ~40,000. So this "flu" is still causing 10 times as many deaths... with almost 60% of the population fully vaccinated with two doses, some with three doses.

But I dispute your claim that we cannot verify that different countries count differently. The Flu + pneumonia numbers make it very clear that they do count differently. In fact I'm not even sure anyone would argue that
And certainly there are counting errors but I'm not claiming that, I'm claiming massive differences in counting methods.

With the other post - you need to clarify what a mass prediction error is (upside and downside).

John Birge

Interesting stuff. A question: in your view, in the U.S., has any state done clearly better than others in minimizing deaths per capita? (after adjusting for age, urbanization etc). Bill Maher espoused the opinion that essentially there is no rhyme or reason to state death rates per capita and therefore any mitigation measures taken were ineffective. What does the data really say?
John Birge

The comments to this entry are closed.

Get new posts by email:
Kaiser Fung. Business analytics and data visualization expert. Author and Speaker.
Visit my website. Follow my Twitter. See my articles at Daily Beast, 538, HBR, Wired.

See my Youtube and Flickr.


  • only in Big Data
Numbers Rule Your World:
Amazon - Barnes&Noble

Amazon - Barnes&Noble

Junk Charts Blog

Link to junkcharts

Graphics design by Amanda Lee

Next Events

Jan: 10 NYPL Data Science Careers Talk, New York, NY

Past Events

Aug: 15 NYPL Analytics Resume Review Workshop, New York, NY

Apr: 2 Data Visualization Seminar, Pasadena, CA

Mar: 30 ASA DataFest, New York, NY

See more here

Principal Analytics Prep

Link to Principal Analytics Prep