Both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza viruses cause upper respiratory illnesses. Seasonal influenza infects up to 50 million people annually. Flu deaths range between 25,000 to 62,000 each year in the United States. COVID-19 infections in the United States are at 1.6 million with nearly reported 93,000 deaths from, with, or of COVID-19. There a few differences between seasonal influenza and COVID-19.
COVID-19 has a higher death rate than seasonal influenza. We knew that from the beginning. We knew that COVID-19 is more deadly to seniors with pre-existing conditions. These senior citizens were not protected in a timely manner and nearly a third of the COVID-19 deaths were in nursing homes.
Until COVID-19 statistics from seasonal influenza were tracked this year, COVID-19 deaths and deaths from seasonal influenza are hard to separate. Many deaths were declared as COVID-19 and were not confirmed cases of COVID-19. Could these unconfirmed deaths have been from seasonal influenza? Probably.
COVID-19 is not the flu. It is a virus. Seasonal viruses are strains of several types of viruses. Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny 0r stuffy nose, fatigue, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
COVID-19 symptoms include fever, chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, shortness of breath, and sometimes skin rashes and loss of smell. Seasonal influenza comes on suddenly and people recover within two weeks. COVID-19 symptoms come on more gradually compared to the flu and range from no symptoms to mild to severe.
Children are more apt to have complications from seasonal influenza compared to COVID-19. Both diseases inflict severe damage on the elderly with pre-existing conditions. The hospitalization rate for seasonal influenza is slightly higher than COVID-19.
The reported death rate from COVID-19 is higher than seasonal influenza. However, the number of asymptomatic cases is not counted in those statistics. As such, it might be that the COVID-19 death rate less than seasonal influenza when this large population pool of having had COVID-19 without symptoms is added to the totals. Columbia University published a study recently that indicated only one person in twelve is documented to have COVID-19 in the United States. As more people are tested these statistics will change.
Many of us have acquired immunity to seasonal influenza. We do not have any immunity to COVID-19. Seasonal influenza deaths are estimates. COVID-19 deaths are being tracked more accurately. Infection rates are different for each disease.
It is estimated that seasonal influenza has a reproduction number of 1.3. This is an estimated number of people who could be infected by the flu. COVID-19 is estimated to be 2.5 – double that of seasonal influenza.
Seasonal influenza should not be confused with pandemic flu. Seasonal influenza is an annual occurrence in the winter in the United States. Pandemics, by definition, are global and do not occur annually.
We hear that a COVID-19 vaccine is right around the corner. That may be true, but it is not the savior for the uninfected. The effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccines is between 37-60% depending on the virus strain. The first COVID-19 vaccine should not expect any better statistics.
Prevention of both seasonal influenza and COVID-19 is similar. Social distancing, masks, gloves, and handwashing are recommended. Treatments vary with each kind of viral drug. Some are approved by the FDA. Others are in evaluation.
Seasonal influenza and COVID-19 are dangerous. Both are more lethal to older citizens, especially those with pre-existing health problems – obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular issues, and more.
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