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A doctor explains: These are the differences between the Coronavirus and Influenza

The Choronavirus is without question one of the greatest global disasters and will definitely shape our world for a long time, if not forever. Many do not know the difference between the coronavirus and a harmless flu. Therefore, we’re going to educate you about some of them.

Coronaviruses are a group of similar viruses that cause respiratory infections that can range from mild to severe. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a recently discovered member of this group causing COVID-19, an infectious disease that mainly affects the respiratory tract. The disease was first discovered in 2019 in Wuhan, China, but has since spread worldwide and led to a pandemic. The symptoms of COVID-19 are mainly fever, dry cough and shortness of breath. Muscle aches and sore throat are less common symptoms. These symptoms are very similar to those of the influenza virus (flu).

The COVID 19 pandemic has hit the headlines in recent weeks, but another viral epidemic is also affecting countries around the world – influenza. Influenza is another infectious disease caused by the influenza virus, which also most commonly affects the respiratory tract. Both COVID-19 and influenza are transmitted by droplet infection, i.e. by coughing or sneezing in close contact with air. However, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than influenza. Both occur with similar symptoms such as fever, cough, body aches and sore throat, but compared to the corona virus, people with influenza have more symptoms and these occur suddenly. This has led to confusion and fear among people because both infections are so similar and cause illness at the same time.

The median incubation period – the time between infection and the onset of symptoms – is shorter; usually 1 to 2 days for influenza virus compared to the median incubation period of 5 to 6 days for COVID-19. Influenza causes outbreaks around the world every year, resulting in about 3 to 4 million cases of serious illness and about 290,000 to 650,000 deaths. Since influenza has been around for a long time, scientists have studied it extensively. As a result, we know relatively much about it. In contrast, the new coronavirus was first identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has since spread worldwide. So although a lot of research is still going on, there is a lot we don’t know about this newly identified virus. The global death rate for COVID-19 is estimated at 3.4%. In comparison, seasonal flu kills less than 1% of those infected, making COVID-19 more dangerous than influenza. According to the current understanding of the Wuhan coronavirus, however, age and pre-existing diseases increase the risk of serious infection.

The presence of a serious infection can lead to pneumonia and acute respiratory distress syndrome or other complications such as sepsis and heart failure. Another big difference between the two viral infections is that we have a vaccine against the influenza virus; so most people around the world have developed immunity to many of its strains. Since we do not yet have developed a vaccine for this new Coronavirus, nobody is immune to it. This has meant that more people are susceptible to the infection, which makes it difficult to control the virus. The current treatment option for COVID-19 is only supportive treatment, such as fluid and oxygen support and monitoring of vital organs of the body. There are no specific antiviral drugs or vaccines for COVID-19 as there are for influenza. However, it is not impossible to contain the coronavirus. Preventive measures for both influenza and COVID-19, as well as for many other viral infections, are similar public health measures such as hand hygiene, coughing and sneezing into the elbows or tissues with immediate disposal of the tissue and staying at home to reduce the risk of transmission.

17 March 2020 28 March 2020
194,727 cases649,904 cases
7,896 deaths 30,313 deaths
81,080 recoveries 137,591 recoveries

Compared to the 3% deaths (CFR) from COVID-19, the CFR of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) is 10% and that of MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) is 34%. COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic and a global public health emergency for good reason, as the disease has become widespread and the number of deaths severe. Let us hope, therefore, that the virus can be contained by appropriate preventive measures.


Dr. Anique Ali

Dr. Anique Ali is a physician with a focus on medical bioinformatics. He loves to find fascinating ways to present boring medical knowledge in a charming and eye-catching way. He graduated from Nishtar Medical College and now works at Nishtar Hospital, one of the best hospitals in Pakistan.


References:
World Health Organization; Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19): situation report, 45
World Health Organization; Up to 650 000 people die of respiratory diseases linked to seasonal flu each year; December 14, 2017
Winter G.; COVID-19 and emergency planning. British Journal of Healthcare Management; 2020 Mar 11:1-3

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