How does the New Coronavirus Compare With the Flu?
How does the New Coronavirus Compare With the Flu? According to the World Health Organization (WHO) the most frequent symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, dry cough, fatigue, and shortness of breath – symptoms that also happen to show up with influenza. Sharing symptoms with the common flu, along with the coronavirus appearing in the middle of flu season, have prompted inevitable comparisons. It is a fact that thousands of people die from the flu every year. Some people, including President Trump, have pointed this out in an effort to ease anxiety about the coronavirus. But while there are many unknowns about the coronavirus, we do know that it is a totally different disease from influenza and comparing the two diseases is missing the point, public health officials explain. Of course, there are similarities between influenza and COVID-19 but “It’s a little simple to think the novel coronavirus is just like flu,” says Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 34,000 people in the United States died from the flu last year. Each year this number fluctuates between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths. Using CDC data, experts calculate the average mortality rate for the flu is 0.1%. Or, another way to look at it is, 1 out of 1000 flu cases result in death. In contrast, data from WHO estimates that the coronavirus mortality rate is around 1%. Meaning, 10 out of 1000 coronavirus cases result in death, 10x more lethal than the seasonal flu.
Preliminary data indicates the novel coronavirus is much more transmissible than the flu with an average incubation period of 5 days. This means people may be contagious before symptoms develop, making it difficult or even impossible to control the spread of the virus. Each person with the coronavirus appears to infect 2.2 other people, on average. Conversely, a flu patient is most contagious three or four days AFTER symptoms begin, according to the CDC, and the average flu patient spreads the virus to 1.3 other people.
Another reason not to compare the two viruses? Influenza has likely been around for thousands of years. Humans have built up immunity over generations. It has been studied intensively and several vaccines exist. Our healthcare system is set up to handle the flu season with only 1%-2% of flu cases needing hospitalization for an average of five to six days. By comparison, the new coronavirus is three months old, people have no established immunity and experts predict a vaccine is still 12-18 months away. Data analyzed from China shows a hospitalization rate of 20% for coronavirus patients (10x higher than flu) for an average of 11 days. Yes, the flu is a problem every year but the new coronavirus threatens to put a much greater burden on health systems than the flu does.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the Trump administration’s top health official on the coronavirus task force says he estimates, “between 100,000 and 200,000” people may die from COVID-19, and millions more will be infected. This is based on modeling of the current pace of the coronavirus spread in the U.S. as of April 1. No one knows what percentage of the population will eventually contract COVID-19 but widespread transmission is expected in the coming months. The CDC predicts most of the U.S. population will be exposed to the virus and, left unchecked, COVID-19 has the potential to be worse in terms of deaths than the flu. We need to take coronavirus seriously right now.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing rapidly. As new data circulates we will continue to update to help you keep your health at the forefront. If you have Medicare questions call Empower today. Let us help with your Medicare questions so you can get back to the activities you enjoy the most. 1-888-446-9157 or click here to get an INSTANT QUOTE