How the Novel Coronavirus Compares to the Flu

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Photographs courtesy of chistlukeshealth.org

The symptoms associated with influenza are nearly identical to those of COVID-19: fatigue, fever, body aches, cough, and even gastrointestinal problems such as vomiting and diarrhea. Both of the viruses can have symptoms ranging from mild to severe, and as of March 19, there have been 13,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout the entire United States. Of those 13,000, 175 have died. Regardless of the fact there are probably thousands of U.S. citizens unaware of their own infection, these current figures put the fatality rate of the disease at 1.34 percent within the United States. To make a comparison, on average the seasonal flu will kill roughly 0.1 percent of those infected, making the coronavirus theoretically 13 times more deadly than the common flu.  

Despite having a relatively low fatality rate, there have been strains of the flu that have killed at a higher rate than that of the coronavirus. For instance, the Spanish flu of 1918 had a fatality rate of about 2 percent and ended up killing millions. According to statistics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza has infected up to 45 million Americans since October of 2019 and has killed roughly 46,000 of those who contracted it. According to the fatality rate, the coronavirus is more deadly, but according to current statistics, influenza has caused the most harm. It is also important to note that the coronavirus seems to be much more contagious than the seasonal flu, with similar rates of contagion to that of the 1918 pandemic flu. 

Globally the coronavirus has infected more than 100,000 people, and of those infections, over 6,000 have died from the disease. The majority of these deaths were in China where the disease was first detected in December but recent statistics have shown Italy to have more fatalities since. As of Thursday, March 19, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Italy has risen to just over 41,000 with the country’s death toll reaching over 3,400. Statistics from the CDC show that people older than 60 years of age and those with underlying health problems are much more likely to die from the disease. But there has been recent data from the CDC showing that nearly 40 percent of Americans who had contracted coronavirus and were sick enough to be hospitalized were between the ages of 20 and 54. 

So, for all you youngins out there who thought you would be invincible to this, think twice. Wash your hands frequently, practice social distancing and don’t hug your grandparents.