The four ways how Covid-19 spreads differently to the flu making it so deadly

Coronavirus cases have been spiking recently and the country is in the midst of another lockdown.

However, as the winter approaches, there will be many people who may be confused what the actual difference is between Covid-19 and the flu.

We all hear constantly about coronavirus and how it’s so deadly – but what actually makes it difference and what about those who foolishly claim “it’s no worse than the flu”?

Dr Justin Varney, director of public health for Birmingham, told BirminghamLive the difference. Speaking on a special Facebook Live broadcast, he said: “It definitely isn’t flu. It is a different type of organism.

“If you look at it under a microscope, it just looks totally different.

“But it also behaves differently. Flu is a respiratory illness and predominantly, people get very sick because when you get severe flu you have problems breathing and you can get fluid on the lungs, and we call that pneumonia.

“Coronavirus does do that but it also does other things. It seems to interrupt people’s clotting, so they end up with blood clots.

“It also gives people a high fever, and flu doesn’t necessarily do that.”

Here are an addition four ways Covid-19 differs from seasonal flu, with some help from the Mirror.

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

Scientists haven’t seen any human immunity to Covid-19 yet

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, warns a lack of Covid-19 immunity in populations leads to so-called ‘supers-spreader’ events.

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Prof Marr explained to Huffington Post how 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.

So, as we already know, the race to find a vaccine for Covid-19 is or vital importance if we are to fight this virus in the here and now – and in years to come, as we do with seasonal flu.

Some people who carry Covid-19 are ‘asymptomatic’ and do not display any symptoms

Some people are asymptomatic
(Image: Adam Gerrard / Daily Mirror)

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.

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.

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Prof Marr explained how 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 withing three days.

This means the window for spreading flu to others and/or doing so unwittingly is much shorter.

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

New virus data has been released
The virus spreads fastest than flu
(Image: Peter Harbour – Yorkshire Live)

Prof Marr outlined how 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.

One example of a super-spreader event was in the White House Rose Garden, when top US scientist, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, revealed at least 11 people caught the bug.

Donald Trump’s team famously neglected to wear masks during the pandemic and at the September White House event we saw how Covid-19 can spread to more than 10 people at one event.

Dr Fauci said at the time: “We had a super spreader event in the White House, and it was in a situation where people were crowded together and were not wearing masks.”

And Prof Marr backs this up, highlighting how successful social distancing and proper use of face coverings makes it harder for Covid to spread at a rate of 2.5.

Covid transmission is different in kids compared to adults

Pupils in the classroom
(Image: Getty Images)

Top boffins at Britain’s King’s College London found children display different Covid symptoms compared to adults, backing up other studies suggesting transmission of the virus is different for kids and grown-ups.

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And the World Health Organisation has previously said “children are important drivers of influenza virus transmission in the community.”

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.

Pregnant women, the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions are also more at risk from the flu – as they are with Covid.

But for kids at least, with the coronavirus, it seems the kids are alright, as the main risk is seen in the elderly and those with pre-existing health conditions.

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