Flu & Coronavirus Have Similar Symptoms, But The Coronavirus Is Far More Deadly – Here Is A Quick Comparison

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  • The flu and the new coronavirus have similar symptoms, but the coronavirus has already proven to be far more deadly.
  • This is what the mortality rates look like in a direct comparison.
    At the end of this article you will find the current figures on cases of illness, deaths and cured people plus a live tracker with numbers in real time worldwide.
  • The outbreak of the corona virus occurred in the middle of the flu season in the northern hemisphere.

Many people have highlighted the overlapping symptoms of the flu and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Even President Donald Trump asked pharmaceutical executives whether the flu vaccine could be used to stop the corona virus.

However, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, expressly warns against going too far with such comparisons.

The flu and the new coronavirus have similar symptoms, but the coronavirus is far more deadly – here are the two in comparison
ByMedicusPublished on March 22, 2020SHARETWEETCOMMENT

The flu and the new coronavirus have similar symptoms, but the coronavirus has already proven to be far more deadly.

This is what the mortality rates look like in a direct comparison.
At the end of this article you will find the current figures on cases of illness, deaths and cured people plus a live tracker with numbers in real time worldwide.
The outbreak of the corona virus occurred in the middle of the flu season in the northern hemisphere.
Many people have highlighted the overlapping symptoms of the flu and COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Even President Donald Trump asked pharmaceutical executives whether the flu vaccine could be used to stop the corona virus.


However, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the World Health Organization, expressly warns against making such comparisons too far.

“This virus is not a SARS, it is not a MERS and it is not an influenza,” said Ghebreyesus in a press conference on Tuesday. “It is a self-contained virus with specific properties.”

The main difference between the flu and the corona virus is that the latter has been far more deadly so far. While around 0.1% of people who contract the flu ultimately die from it, the coronavirus mortality rate is currently around 3.4% based on the current number of reported cases and deaths.

However, the death rate of the novel coronavirus is still developing as more cases are confirmed. Many health professionals believe that as the number of cases increases, the rate will decrease over time. This is because an estimated 80% of coronavirus cases are mild, while patients checking into hospitals have the most severe symptoms. People with symptoms that are mild enough to recover at home without medical treatment are not included in the official totals.

How the flu and coronavirus mortality rates compare to each other

The novel corona virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, in December has infected 258,052 people and killed 11,277 people, mainly in China. (As of March 20, 8:18 p.m. German time). It has now spread almost worldwide. In the live tracker below, you can get detailed numbers for each country. Germany has confirmed 18,848 cases of illness and 67 deaths.

Older people die of the coronavirus much more often than younger people, and the same goes for the flu – if not to the same extent.

How the mortality rates of the two virus types in different age groups compare:

For example, during the 2018-19 flu season, approximately 35 million people contracted the flu in the U.S., and approximately 34,000 of them died, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated 32 million people have had the flu there this season, with 310,000 hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths.

The agency estimates the number of flu infections in the United States through its influenza monitoring system, which collects flu data from state and local partners and then projects nationwide sums using infectious disease models.

In the 2018/19 season, approximately one in every 1,000 flu patients died.

However, the breakdown of the numbers by age group shows a somewhat more complex situation. Around 10,000 children died in children. In adults between 50 and 64 years old, about six out of 10,000 people who had the flu died. For people aged 65 and over, however, the rate rose to around 83 out of 10,000.

While the mortality rate from flu is relatively low, it varies depending on the strains of virus that circulate each year. The flu virus also mutates very quickly, so people can be infected with different strains, which is why vaccination is not 100% effective and new vaccines are developed every year.

About 15% of coronavirus patients over the age of 80 have died from it

The corona virus is more deadly than the flu in all age groups, but especially in the elderly. This is the result of studies by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, published in mid-February. It also affects people who already have health problems more severely.

According to the Chinese authorities, about four out of every 1,000 died between 10 and 40 years of age who contracted the coronavirus. Meanwhile, 8% of people between the ages of 70 and 79 died, and the rate rises to around 15% among those over 80.

Here’s how the corona virus compares to a number of other serious virus outbreaks:

One reason why the corona virus is more deadly than the flu: it is still new

Ghebreyesus said one reason the coronavirus death rate is so much higher than the flu is that it is the first time that humans have had it.

“While many people around the world have built immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus that nobody is immune to,” he said in the meeting. “This means that more people are susceptible to infections and some will become seriously ill.”

We have vaccines and therapeutic agents to prevent and treat seasonal flu, but no cures for the coronavirus are known. However, scientists are trying to develop treatments and vaccines to stop their spread: biotech company Gilead is testing a drug called Remdesivir, and Moderna has submitted a potential vaccine for initial testing.

Prevention of the spread of the flu and coronavirus

The flu and coronavirus spread in the same way: through virus particles that mediate between people in tiny droplets or saliva and mucus. If a sick person sneezes, coughs or eats at a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters from a healthy person, these particles can land on the healthy person. If the particles get into this other person’s eyes, nose or mouth, they can become infected.

The flu is extremely efficient at spreading to other people before this newly infected person starts to show any symptoms. However, the corona virus does not work exactly the same way.

“According to the data available so far, COVID-19 is not transmitted as efficiently as influenza,” said Ghebreyesus.

That said, containment was still possible, he added.

“We don’t talk at all about curbing seasonal flu – it’s just not possible. But it is possible for COVID-19, “said Ghebreyesus. “We don’t track seasonal flu, but countries should do it for COVID-19 because it prevents infection and saves lives.”

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