Four reasons Covid-19 is more deadly than flu

Annual, seasonal flu and the current coronavirus pandemic can seem very similar – both spread in a similar way, have some similar symptoms and both can kill.

But the global response to the new coronavirus has been very different – and there are four key reasons, reports The Mirror.

According to figures from national statistical agencies the new coronavirus has killed more than 64,000 people in the UK so far this year.

Public Health England says on average flu kills 17,000 people in England each year.

Here are four ways Covid-19 differs from seasonal flu.

Scientists have not yet seen any human immunity to Covid-19

We do not yet have a vaccine for Covid-19 while each year the NHS offers a new flu jab which fights the latest seasonal strain.

Scientists say Covid spreads more than seasonal flu – and our lack of immunity is a major factor.

Airborne viruses expert Professor Linsey Marr, who lectures on civil and environmental engineering at US university Virginia Tech, told Huffington Post more people in any given room are more likely to catch the coronavirus than they are the flu and this is not down the nature of the virus itself but rather to the lack of immunity in the population.

Some people who carry Covid-19 do not display any symptoms

Covid-19 and the flu share several symptoms, with a high temperature and a cough among those. Both could see you experience a dry cough and with Covid the cough would be persistent.

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While people with the flu often experience headaches and a loss of appetite.

But scientists discovered early on in the pandemic that some people can catch and carry Covid-19 without showing any symptoms.

And this is another reason the coronavirus spreads more widely and more rapidly than seasonal flu.

If someone has no idea they have the virus – because there is no sign of any symptoms – then they will not self-isolate or avoid people, meaning they will be unwittingly spreading it.

Some scientists have even suggested that around 40 per cent to 50 per cent of people who catch Covid-19 are asymptomatic.

There are some cases of flu where people have shown no symptoms, but a key difference is that the ‘incubation period’ for Covid-19 is longer.

Prof Marr said the incubation period – the time between exposure to a virus and showing symptoms, or not – is up to 14 days with Covid, while people with flu tend to show symptoms within three days.

Flu’s ‘viral load’ – the quantity of a virus in body fluid – does not tend to begin until symptoms are visible.

But with Covid-19, this could take up to a fortnight.

Higher viral spread

Prof Marr said someone who has caught seasonal flu will on average spread it to 1.3 other people.

But with the coronavirus, this viral spread is almost double – to 2.5 people.

Covid transmission is different in children

Children display different Covid symptoms compared to adults, and the World Health Organisation has said “children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community.”

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It added: “For Covid-19 virus, initial data indicates that children are less affected than adults and that clinical attack rates in the 0-19 age group are low.

“Further preliminary data from household transmission studies in China suggest that children are infected from adults, rather than vice versa.”

The WHO also reminded that, when it comes to seasonal flu, children are known to be more at risk of developing severe infections.

Children under the age of 6 months are at the highest risk of severe complications from the flu due to their immune systems being less developed and more fragile, and the fact they are too young to be given the flu jab.

The WHO added: “For Covid-19, our current understanding is that older age and underlying conditions increase the risk for severe infection.”