Coronavirus and Flu: The similarities and differences

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Human coronaviruses are not as new as they seem. As a matter of fact, they are common throughout the world. According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), The first case of human coronavirus was first reported in the mid-60s. Ever since then, 7 other different strains of the virus have been identified to infect humans. Below are the listed 7 coronaviruses:

  1. 229E (alpha coronavirus)
  2. NL63 (alpha coronavirus)
  3. OC43 (beta coronavirus)
  4. HKU1 (beta coronavirus)
  5. MERS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS)
  6. SARS-CoV (the beta coronavirus that causes the severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS)
  7. SARS-CoV-2 (the novel coronavirus that causes coronavirus disease 2019, or COVID-19)

How ever, the most recent coronavirus, COVID-19 is caused by a new virus. It was first identified in Wuhan, China and is associated with mild-to-severe respiratory illness with fever and cough. This virus is highly contagious and spreads easily from person-to-person.

You can learn more about the progressive symptoms of coronavirus here.

It has been named “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes has been named “coronavirus disease 2019” (abbreviated “COVID-19”).

Influenza (or Flu) on the other hand, is a viral disease caused by the influenza virus. It basically infects the respiratory system, thereby affecting the lungs, throat, and nose.

Due to the fact that both the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and Influenza (Flu) basically infect the respiratory system, several attempts have been made by medical practitioners to compare the two infectious diseases.

Similarities between COVID-19 virus and Flu

Here are the ways in which both viruses are similar:

  1. Both the Influenza virus (Flu) and the COVID-19 virus cause respiratory infection, which appears as a wide range of illnesses from asymptomatic or mild to severe diseases and even death.
  2. Both viruses are primarily transmitted by contact, droplets, or by contaminated inanimate objects such as clothes, utensils, furniture, beddings, etc. As a result of this, the same precautionary measures, such as hand hygiene and good respiratory etiquette (coughing into a flexed elbow or into a tissue and immediately disposing of the tissue), are important actions that can be taken to prevent infection.
  3. Both diseases can lead to pneumonia in severe cases.

Differences between COVID-19 and Flu

Some of the basic differences between the influenza virus and the novel coronavirus disease are summarized in the table below:

Image showing the differences between corona virus and Flu in tabular format

Other differences between the influenza virus (Flu) and COVID-19 are:

  • Depending on the locality and quality of healthcare, the global mortality rate of COVID-19 is about 3.4% when compared with the seasonal Flu which is approximately 1%.
  • While there is a vaccine for Flu, Coronavirus, on the other hand, has no vaccine or cure (although there are several laboratory experiments ongoing to develop a vaccine for the new virus).
  • Unlike the COVID-19 virus, children are the major drivers of the influenza virus transmission in the community, while the initial data for COVID-19 virus indicates that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in the 0-19 age group are very low. Further preliminary data from household transmission studies in China, where the virus was first identified, suggests that children are infected from adults, rather than vice versa.

Until a vaccine or cure is made available, there is no better way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 than practicing social distancing and self-isolation, which means non-essential social contact or travel should be strictly avoided. It is very important to maintain good personal and domestic hygiene by washing the hands regularly with soap and water and keeping surfaces and utensils clean.

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