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Sunday Mar 01 2020
Web Desk

How similar is coronavirus to flu?

Web Desk
Photo: File

In the olden days, the 1918 influenza pandemic emerged as one of the deadliest diseases of all time, with estimated deaths around 100 million. Fast forward into the 21st century, human beings developed relative immunity to the virus, so that its effects are not as devastating.

The recent coronavirus outbreak is also a respiratory disease, much similar to the flu, which still claims thousands of lives each year. 

According to a New York Times report, the seasonal flu kills around 0.1 per cent of patients as compared to two per cent of the 1918 flu strain, which had a huge fatality rate.

As per earlier studies, the coronavirus was estimated to have the similar fatality rate as the Spanish influenza. Interestingly, a newer research based on 1,099 cases has put the death rate at 1.4 per cent now.

However, there is small catch; the coronavirus seems to be more contagious than most strains of the flu, as per the NYT report.

“Each person with the coronavirus appears to infect 2.2 other people, on average,” the report stated, adding that the coronavirus emerged more contagious due to the way it was handled at the epicenter of the outbreak, China’s Wuhan.

In both flu and coronavirus, the elderly, sick and immunocompromised people have greater chances of being infected.

“There seems to be another important difference: The flu appears far more dangerous to children, particularly very young ones, who can become severely ill. Children infected with the new coronavirus tend to have mild or no symptoms,” the report said.

Currently, there are is no mainstream treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus, it is basically management of symptoms for the patients.

Those infected with either coronavirus or flu are contagious even before the onset of the disease. The first few symptoms are nearly the same in both the diseases, which are cough and fever.

There is also a discrepancy in the severity of symptoms in the coronavirus patients. According to data regarding patients in China, 80 percent had mild infections while only five percent were critical, said the report.

The real issue lies in the coronavirus being more infectious than the flu, as there are still vaccines and treatment present for the flu, anti-viral medications are yet to be introduced commercially for the coronavirus.