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COVID by the Numbers: How deadly is COVID-19 in comparison to other causes of death?

patient hospital covid coronavirus death
CDC

(KION) COVID-19 has taken its toll around the state and around the country. According to the California Department of Public Health, California has surpassed 30,000 COVID-19 related deaths, and Johns Hopkins University reports that the U.S. is approaching 400,000 deaths.

To put those numbers into perspective, we gathered information about numbers related to causes of death and compared them to the COVID-19 death toll.

California

The California Department of Public Health reports that there were 30,513 COVID-19 related deaths as of Jan. 11.

Many people compare COVID-19 to the flu, so we looked up the number of flu-related deaths the CDC reported in the State of California in previous years.

These are the number of flu or pneumonia-related deaths reported over a four year span:

  • 2014- 5,970 deaths
  • 2015- 6,188 deaths
  • 2016- 5,981 deaths
  • 2017- 6,340 deaths

If you add the deaths from all four years together, it comes to 24,479 deaths, which is lower than the number of COVID-19 deaths reported since the start of the pandemic about one year ago.

Over the course of those years, the flu/pneumonia were listed as the eighth leading cause of death in California. This is how COVID-19 compares to other causes of death.

Leading causes of death 2017:

  • Heart Disease- 62,797 deaths
  • Cancer- 59,516 deaths
  • Stroke- 16,355 deaths
  • Alzheimer's Disease- 16,238 deaths

Leading causes of death 2016:

  • Heart Disease- 61,573 deaths
  • Cancer- 59,515 deaths
  • Stroke- 15,680 deaths
  • Alzheimer's Disease- 15,570 deaths

Leading causes of death 2015:

  • Heart Disease- 61,289 deaths
  • Cancer- 59,629 deaths
  • Stroke- 15,065 deaths
  • Alzheimer's Disease- 15,065 deaths

Leading causes of death 2014:

  • Heart Disease- 58,412 deaths
  • Cancer- 58,189 deaths
  • Stroke- 13,731 deaths
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases- 12,780 deaths

The CDC has not released data for 2020 yet, but if the numbers remain consistent, COVID-19 could be the third leading cause of death in California in that year. Heart disease and cancer have higher death tolls in the previous years.

Source- National Center for Health Statistics, Stats of the State of California

United States

According to a count by Johns Hopkins University, 384,204 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported in the U.S. as of Jan. 13.

Flu or pneumonia-related deaths were reported by the CDC over the course of 2014 to 2017.

  • 2014- 55,227 deaths
  • 2015- 57,062 deaths
  • 2016- 51,537 deaths
  • 2017- 55,672 deaths

The total number of flu or pneumonia-related deaths across all four years amounts to 219,498 deaths, which is still lower than the number of COVID-19 deaths reported during the course of the pandemic.

This is how COVID-19 compares to other causes of death.

Leading causes of death 2017:

  • Heart Disease- 647,457 deaths
  • Cancer- 599,108 deaths
  • Accidents- 169,936 deaths
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases- 160,201 deaths

Leading causes of death 2016:

  • Heart Disease- 635,260 deaths
  • Cancer- 598,038 deaths
  • Accidents- 161,374 deaths
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases- 154,596 deaths

Leading causes of death 2015:

  • Heart Disease- 633,842 deaths
  • Cancer- 595,930 deaths
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases- 155,041 deaths
  • Accidents- 146,571 deaths

Leading causes of death 2014:

  • Heart Disease- 614,348 deaths
  • Cancer- 591,700 deaths
  • Chronic Lower Respiratory Diseases- 147,101 deaths
  • Accidents- 135,928 deaths

As with data for California, if the 2020 numbers are consistent with previous years, COVID-19 will rank as the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.

Data sources are hyperlinked above.

Wars and Mass Casualty Events

Most of the previous causes of death are related to diseases, but how does COVID-19 compare to other deaths during historical moments?

These are the number of deaths that resulted from wars with American involvement, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

  • American Revolution (1775-1783)- 4,435 battle deaths
  • War of 1812 (1812-1815)- 2,260 battle deaths
  • Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)- 1,000 estimated battle deaths
  • Mexican Wars (1846-1848)- 13,283 total deaths
  • Civil War (1861-1865)- 498,332 estimated total deaths in battle and in theater
  • Spanish-American War (1898-1902)- 2,446 battle and non-theater deaths
  • World War I (1917-1918)- 116,516 battle and non-theater deaths
  • World War II (1941-1945)- 405,399 battle and non-theater deaths
  • Korean War (1950-1953)- 54,246 battle, in theater and non-theater deaths
  • Vietnam War (1964-1975)- 90,220 battle, in theater and non-theater deaths
  • Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)- 1,948 battle, in theater and non-theater deaths

Other sources estimate that about 600,000 Americans died in the Civil War. In total, the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that there were a total of 1,190,085 American battle, other in theater and other non-theater deaths between 1775 and 1991.

Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

A major mass casualty event in American history was the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001. The total number of people who died that day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and near Shanksville, PA aboard United Airlines Flight 93 amounts to 2,977 people.

Source: CNN Sept. 11 Fact Sheet

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2,403 Americans died in the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.

Source: U.S. Census Pearl Harbor Fact Sheet

Other Pandemics

COVID-19 not the first pandemic in American history. These are some of the major ones and how many deaths are attributed to them in the U.S.:

Sources are hyperlinked above.

California News / Coronavirus / Health / National-World / Top Stories

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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