How Does The New Coronavirus Compare With The Flu?

August 5, 2020

Since the new coronavirus was first discovered in January, many have compared it to a more well-known disease. Influenza.

Many of those comparisons have pointed out that the cost of influenza, which causes millions of illnesses and tens of thousands of deaths each year in the United States alone, is perhaps underestimated. (During the current flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are 39 to 56 million flu illnesses and 24,000 to 62,000 flu deaths in the U.S., although this figure is based on estimates of hospitalizations for flu symptoms rather than actual counts of every person who dies from the flu.)

According to Johns Hopkins University, as of May 14, the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 has sickened more than 1.4 million people and killed 85,000 in the United States.

COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory diseases. But COVID-19 is not influenza. Current research shows that COVID-19 is more easily spread and has a higher death rate than the flu.

Scientists are scrambling to find more information about COVID-19, and our understanding may change as new information becomes available. Based on what we know so far, here’s how it compares to influenza.

Symptoms and severity of the disease
Both seasonal influenza viruses (including influenza A and influenza B viruses) and COVID-19 are infectious viruses that cause respiratory illness.

Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headache, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. flu symptoms often come on suddenly. Most people who get the flu will recover in less than two weeks. But in some people, the flu leads to complications, including pneumonia. According to the CDC, the overall hospitalization rate for influenza in the U.S. this season is about 69 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

COVID-19, doctors are still trying to get a full picture of the symptoms and severity of the disease. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. Other symptoms may include fever, chills, recurrent shivering with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat and new loss of taste or smell.COVID-19 symptoms appear to come more gradually than those of the flu, according to Healthline.

Older people and those with underlying medical conditions, including heart disease, lung disease or diabetes, appear to be at higher risk for more serious complications from COVID-19, compared with younger age groups and those without underlying conditions.

The overall hospitalization rate for COVID-19 in the U.S. is about 50 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, as of May 8, although adults 65 and older have a higher rate, at 162 hospitalizations per 100,000 people, according to the CDC.(However, since fewer people in the U.S. are likely to get COVID-19 than get the flu, if you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, becoming hospitalized with the The odds are thought to be higher than the odds of hospitalization for influenza).

Children are at high risk for complications from influenza, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with COVID-19 – few children are hospitalized for the new coronavirus.A study of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., published March 18, found that of 4,226 reported cases, at least 508 (12 percent) were hospitalized, less than 1 percent of whom were younger than 20 years old.

More recently, however, COVID-19 has been linked to a rare but serious inflammatory syndrome in children called pediatric multisystemic inflammatory syndrome. According to the New York Times, 100 cases of the syndrome in children have been confirmed in New York City.

It is important to note that because respiratory viruses can cause similar symptoms, the World Health Organization says it is difficult to distinguish between different respiratory viruses based on symptoms alone.

mortality
According to news reports, the mortality rate for seasonal influenza in the United States is usually around 0.1 percent.

While the mortality rate for COVID-19 is unknown, almost all credible studies suggest that it is much higher than seasonal flu.

It is important to note that there is no standardized mortality rate for COVID-19, and as Live Science previously reported, it can vary depending on location, age of the infected person, and the presence of an underlying health condition.

Nearly 6 percent of reported COVID-19 cases in the United States are fatal. This is known as the case fatality rate, which is determined by dividing the number of deaths by the total number of confirmed cases. However, the case fatality rate is limited for several reasons. First, not every person with COVID-19 is diagnosed with the disease – this is due in part to testing restrictions in the U.S. and the fact that people presenting with mild or moderate symptoms may not qualify or seek testing. As the number of diagnosed cases increases, the death rate may decrease.

According to the Washington Post, researchers from Columbia University recently estimated that only one out of 12 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been documented, which they said would translate into a mortality rate of about 0.6 percent from the infection. But even that lower estimate is still at least six times higher than the flu estimate (according to the Post, the case fatality rate for people with the flu may be 0.1 percent, but if you include people who contracted the flu but never showed symptoms, the death rate would be half or even a quarter of that figure).

What’s more, unlike influenza, there is a vaccine to which everyone in the population is theoretically susceptible to COVID-19. So while the flu affects 8 percent of the U.S. population each year, according to the CDC, 50 to 80 percent of the population could be infected with COVID-19, according to a study published March 30 in the journal The Lancet. In the U.S., if half of the population is infected with COVID-19 and there is no social diversion or treatment, this translates into 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to The Post.

Another limitation of case fatality rates is that some people who are statistically confirmed cases may end up dying from the disease, which would lead to increased mortality rates. For example, New Scientist reported that South Korea initially reported a case fatality rate of 0.6 percent in early March, but it later rose to 1.7 percent by early April.

It’s also important to note that the CDC’s estimates of influenza illness and death are just that – estimates (in which certain assumptions are made), not raw numbers. (The CDC does not know the exact number of people who get or die from influenza in the U.S. each year; rather, the number is estimated from influenza hospitalization data collected through surveillance in 13 states.) This point is underscored by a recent paper published in JAMA Internal Medicine, which found that 20 times as many people in the U.S. die from COVID-19 each week as die from influenza during the deadliest week of the average flu season, as previously reported by Live Science.

Transmission of the virus
The method scientists use to measure how easy it is to spread the virus is known as the “basic reproduction number,” or R0 (pronounced R-nought). As previously reported by Live science, this is an estimate of the average number of people who contract the virus from a single infected person. According to the New York Times, the R0 value for influenza is about 1.3.

Researchers are still trying to determine the R0 for COVID-19. According to a review study published Feb. 28 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, preliminary studies estimate the R0 value for the novel coronavirus to be between 2 and 3. This means that each infected person transmitted the virus to an average of two to three people.

Some studies suggest that COVID-19 has a higher R0 value. For example, a study published April 7 in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases used a mathematical model to calculate an R0 of nearly 6 for China.

It’s important to note that R0 is not a constant number. Estimates can vary from place to place, depending on factors such as how often people come into contact with each other and efforts to reduce the spread of the virus, Live Science previously reported.

pandemic
Seasonal influenza, which causes outbreaks every year, should not be confused with pandemic influenza, or a new strain of influenza virus that is very different from the global outbreak that usually circulates. This happened in the 2009 swine flu pandemic, which is estimated to have infected up to 1.4 billion people and killed between 151,000 and 575,000 people worldwide, according to the CDC. there is currently no flu pandemic.

On March 11, the WHO officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. This is the first time WHO has declared a coronavirus pandemic.

guard against
Unlike seasonal flu, there is a vaccine to prevent infection, but there is no vaccine for COVID-19. However, researchers in the United States and around the world are working to develop a vaccine.

In addition, there are several treatments for influenza that have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including antiviral drugs such as amantadine and rimantadine (Flumadine), and influenza inhibitors such as oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza). In contrast, the FDA has not yet approved any treatment for COVID-19, although approval of remdesivir, an antiviral drug originally developed to treat Ebola, is pending.

In general, the CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including coronaviruses and influenza viruses. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands; avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when sick; and clean and disinfect frequently touched items and surfaces.

In addition, wearing a cloth mask in public and maintaining a social distance – or a distance of at least 6 feet (1.8 m) from others – is recommended to prevent the spread of COVID-19.