Coronavirus is a contagious infection that has spread across 50 countries and all continents except Antarctica so far. Fifteen cases have been confirmed in the UK, with health officials expecting more in the coming weeks. In some places coronavirus has proven deadly, but is the virus more deadly than the flu?
The WHO’s latest figures – as of Friday 28th February – revealed there has been 83,310 confirmed cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began on 31st December 2019.
The organisation also notes (from 20th January to 2nd February 2020) its laboratories found 59,702 specimens that tested positive with influenza (the flu).
Senior director of infection prevention at John Hopkins, Lisa Maragakis, M.D., M.P.H, explains the similarities but also major differences between the flu and coronavirus.
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One of the main similarities is flu and coronavirus are both infectious respiratory illnesses.
The symptoms of both can look very similar: a fever and cough. And health complications created by the viruses can result in death.
However, the flu and coronavirus are caused by different viruses altogether.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) is caused by one virus, the novel 2019 coronavirus – now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2.
The flu is caused by several different types and strains of influenza viruses.
As the flu has been around for much longer than coronavirus, there’s an effective vaccine available to reduce the severity of the flu.
Meanwhile, a vaccine for the coronavirus is currently in progress.
Public Health England (PHE) reports: “This is a rapidly evolving situation which we are monitoring carefully.”
At present, there has been no reported deaths from coronavirus in the UK.
Looking at the data, an official document published by PHE confirms a total of 1,692 people died from the flu within England between 2018 and 2019.
The majority of deaths recorded at that time, caused by flu, were mostly citizens aged 65 and over.
PHE published a report detailing how the flu caused 28,330 deaths in England between 2014 and 2015.
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Again, the highest number of deaths from the flu occurred in the elderly.
As coronavirus has only been circulating globally for the past couple of months, it’s hard to tell just how deadly the virus can become.
However, the Chinese government has reported the death rate from coronavirus is 2.3 percent.
It’s also been reported the long-established death rate from flu is only 0.1 percent.
This suggests you’re 23 times more likely to die from coronavirus than the flu.
But Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said: “The issue now with [the coronavirus] is that there’s a lot of unknowns.”
PHE attest: “Based on the available evidence, the current risk to the UK population is low to moderate.”
Only time will tell if the coronavirus will keep heads rolling.
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