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Facebook removes Trump post comparing the seasonal flu to COVID-19

Facebook removed a post by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday after he falsely claimed coronavirus can be less deadly than the seasonal flu.

According to CNN, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed the company removed the post for breaking its rules on Covid-19 misinformation.

His post was also flagged by Twitter for “misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.” But the social media company left up the tweet saying it “may be in the public’s interest.”

Less than a day after being released from the hospital for coronavirus treatment, Trump tweeted Tuesday morning that Americans should “live” with the virus citing the upcoming flu season as an example.

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” he tweeted.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 24,000 to 62,000 Americans died of influenza during the 2019-2020 flu season.

The CDC also estimates that from 2010-2011 to 2017-2018, influenza-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 (during 2011-2012) to a high of 79,000 (during 2017-2018).

The flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor visits each year, the CDC said on its website. For example, during 2018-2019, flu vaccination prevented an estimated 4.4 million influenza illnesses, 2.3 million flu-associated medical visits, 58,000 flu-associated hospitalizations, and 3,500 flu-related deaths, the CDC said.

Although Trump linked the severity of influenza to COVID-19, the two viruses are not the same in terms of severity, according to Colin Furness, a University of Toronto professor who specializes in infection control epidemiology.

“He wants to close the gap between the flu and COVID,” he said. “COVID is far more deadly and contagious than the flu. Although we are better at treating COVID now, and our death rate in Canada is only 0.6 per cent or 0.7 per cent, it is still higher than the flu.”

According to Health Canada statistics, as of Oct. 5, the mortality rate of COVID-19 in Canada is 25 deaths per 100,000 population.

By comparison, the Public Health Agency of Canada says the annual death rate for influenza in Canada is usually between nine and 13 deaths per 100,000 people, depending on the severity of the flu season.

‘Don’t let it dominate your life’

Trump, who returned to the White House on Monday after nearly four days at Walter Reed Medical Center, was due to receive a fifth transfusion of the antiviral drug remdesivir while being treated with the steroid dexamethasone, normally used only in the most severe cases.

During his hospital stay the president received high-quality care and experimental treatments, including antibody cocktails and the antiviral drug remdesivir, that remain out of reach to most people in any country, let alone the U.S.

When he returned to the White House Monday evening, he tweeted a message saying, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

But questions have swirled around the true state of Trump‘s health after a weekend when his doctors offered contradictory assessments of his condition.

His oxygen saturation dipped enough to require supplemental oxygen on Friday and Saturday, his doctors said. But his doctors have not answered key questions about his lung function, his blood work, or when he lasted tested negative.

“He is probably still very ill, and no question should still be in the hospital,” Furness said. “But he wants to project strength, as getting sick may seem a sign of weakness, so he’s coming out swinging.”

Trump, who is running against Democrat Joe Biden in an election four weeks away, has repeatedly played down the disease, which has killed more than one million people worldwide. The U.S. has the world’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 210,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

— With files from Reuters

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