During COVID-19, we've heard many comparisons between SARS-CoV-2 and the Flu, especially in terms of the case fatality rate (CFR). Currently, the Flu is thought to be around 0.1%, and according to the latest CDC estimates (as of 2020-05-28), COVID-19 is around 0.4% (or 0.26% when including asymptomatic cases).

I haven't been able to find any information about the Common Cold's CFR. Do we have any estimates for where that sits?

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    Welcome to Medical Sciences! Please take the tour and read the help center. For reasons mentioned in this post and in How to Ask, we require some degree of prior research when asking questions. See this list of helpful resources. Please help us to help you and edit your question to provide more information on what you have read on this subject, what made you ask this question, and any problems you are having understanding your research. If you found nothing, what did you Google?
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented May 30, 2020 at 0:18
  • @CareyGregory - The OP has said "according to the latest CDC estimates (as of 2020-05-28), COVID-19 is around 0.4%" and "I haven't been able to find any information about the Common Cold's CFR". That shows prior research to me. Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 7:20
  • @CareyGregory the original CDC information has been revised since, but there is a fact check article at usatoday.com/story/news/factcheck/2020/06/05/… confirming the "best estimate" at 0.4% CFR Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 7:38
  • @ChrisRogers Well, then add that to the question and I'll reopen it. The question drew an anti-vaxxer so that's what brought it to my attention that the OP had never responded to my comment.
    – Carey Gregory
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 14:44
  • CFR isn't meaningful because it depends on testing. You really want to estimate IFR: ourworldindata.org/…
    – endolith
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:15

2 Answers 2


SARS-Cov-2 is a distinct virus that causes a distinct disease: COVID-19.

Virus influenzae is a distinct virus (or a term for a small group of similar viruses) that causes a distinct disease: seasonal influenza or "flu."

This is why you can compare death rates of SARS-Cov-2 and influenza virus, or COVID-19 and flu.

"Common cold" refers to a group of various viral infections of the nose and throat, which can be caused by at least 200 different viruses. This means you can't compare death rates of a diverse group of diseases called common cold and a single disease, such as COVID-19 or flu.

When a common cold extends to the lower respiratory tract, it is, by definition, no longer called common cold, but laryngitis, bronchitis or pneumonia, for example.

When a person gets a common cold that becomes complicated as pneumonia and dies from it, the cause of death is recorded as pneumonia not as a common cold.

If you stick with a definition of common cold linked above:

Common cold is a self-limited contagious disease that can be caused by a number of different types of viruses. The common cold is medically referred to as a viral upper respiratory tract infection.

...then you can't even say that common cold is deadly.

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    ||| "This means you can't compare death rates" ||| Sure you can. Count up the death rates of the diverse group of diseases, then compare.
    – fche
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 22:17
  • In other words, "common cold" can actually be caused by influenza viruses, so they're not really in the same category
    – endolith
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 16:15

I had trouble finding any specific estimates for your question after various searches, but given the common cold is much milder than the flu, one can presume it is significantly less than the CFR of the flu.

The issue with the common cold isn't the virus itself, but instead the complications that patients can get after the virus, which can rarely but potentially become dangerous. For instance, a bacterial sinus infection can develop -- in children, 5-13% of bacterial sinus infections have a preceding viral infection. Serious but rare neurological diseases, like Guillain-Barre Syndrome, can also occur after a common cold.

The common cold can also exacerbate the symptoms one has from other health conditions, such as COPD, which is a common cause for hospitalization among adults with COPD.

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