Teens’ coronavirus hospitalization rates 3 times higher than flu: CDC study

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While teens appear to face a low risk of hospitalization due to COVID-19, a study suggests the rate of hospital visits due to the virus is actually three times greater compared to flu-related hospitalizations.

Findings out Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) stemmed from FluSurv-NET data, a surveillance system across 13 states, to compare COVID-19 and flu-related hospitalizations among kids aged 12-17 from October to April, or most of the typical flu season. Rates were compared across three flu seasons starting in 2017.

“Cumulative COVID-19–associated hospitalization rates during October 1, 2020–April 24, 2021, were 2.5–3.0 times higher than seasonal influenza-associated hospitalization rates during three recent influenza seasons,” CDC researchers wrote.


Hospitalization data was presented in the form of total rates per 100,000 population, compiling week by week. Results indicate upwards of 35 COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 population, compared to approximately 15 flu hospitalizations per 100,000 population. Data also indicates the three flu seasons under study saw approximately similar numbers of teens requiring hospitalization, though the 2018-2019 flu season resulted in fewer cumulative hospitalizations.

The flu is another respiratory virus blamed for hospitalizations and deaths among adolescents, and, like COVID-19, a vaccine is recommended among teens. Researchers noted teens’ COVID-19 hospitalization rates exceeded that of the flu during comparable periods, despite measures taken like mask use, distancing and remote schooling.

“Without these containment measures, the rates of COVID-19–associated hospitalization might have been substantially higher,” authors wrote.  

The study had its limitations, including how uneven testing rates between COVID-19 and influenza were not adjusted for, potentially disproportionately affecting flu rates, authors noted.

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