Coronavirus vs. the Flu

Paramedic from Hertfordshire tests positive for Coronavirus

Coronavirus vs. the Flu

One of the most common criticisms of media reportage surrounding Coronavirus or COVID-19 is that it is “no worse than the flu”, and is therefore over-exaggerated.

So we’ve crunched the facts and figures in order to see how the two conditions compare.

Influenza or ‘the flu’ is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. It is spread through the droplets that are created when people with flu cough or sneeze, or through contact with shared surfaces.

Although it is different in its severity, the symptoms can be similar to that of the common cold, but can also include a fever, chills, fatigue, muscle or body aches, and vomiting and diarrhoea.

The onset of the flu can be very sudden. It can be prevented with a vaccine which the NHS offers annually to all vulnerable patients.

Similarly, Coronavirus is a respiratory illness and has symptoms much like the common cold including a cough, a fever, and shortness of breath.

There is currently no vaccine. At present, only the symptoms can be treated.

Here are the facts and figures:

  • The World Health Organisation estimates that the flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people around the world every year. Since it was identified in December 2019, Coronavirus has killed around 3,069.
  • According to The World Health Organisation, the global risk of a Coronavirus pandemic has now shifted from high to very high. There is, however, little risk of an Influenza pandemic. This is due to a number of factors including our understanding of how each virus spreads and is treated.
  • The flu epidemic of 1918 is considered to have affected at least half of the world population. It caused 40-50 million deaths worldwide.
  • Those most at risk of death from both Coronavirus and Influenza are those with existing conditions or weakened immune systems.
  • According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu has already caused 14,000 deaths this season in the U.S. alone.
  • It is predicted that in the event that a pandemic is declared, some 80% of the UK could contract Coronavirus.
  • The death rate for COVID-19 appears to be higher than that of the flu. Researchers for China CDC Weekly have found the death rate from COVID-19 to be around 2.3% in mainland China. That’s much higher than the death rate linked to flu, which is typically around 0.1% in the U.S.
  • The death rate for both Influenza and COVID-19 varies by location and an individual’s age, among other factors.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that:

“Despite the morbidity and mortality with influenza, there’s a certainty of seasonal flu. I can tell you all, guaranteed, that as we get into March and April, the flu cases are going to go down. You could predict pretty accurately what the range of the mortality is and the hospitalisations. The issue now with Coronavirus is that there’s a lot of unknowns.”

So, while it could be argued that Coronavirus is “no worse than the flu” because it has never yet reached the status of a pandemic, nor has it killed as many people, one could also argue that it is indeed a greater danger because our understanding of it is so minimal. Or that it is either worse or equal to the flu, because prior to the development of a vaccine, the flu was a serious and deadly condition which is perhaps how we should now view Coronavirus.

For further information on Coronavirus, please visit our past articles here or here. If you suspect that you have come into contact with someone who has the condition, please contact NHS 111.


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