GETTING PERSPECTIVE: Coronavirus vs. the Flu
The spread of the coronavirus is scary, but we need to keep it in perspective and try not to panic.
The coronavirus, called COVID-19 by the World Health Organization, originated in China and is the cousin of the SARS virus. Coronaviruses are common among animals and can also make people sick.
As of February 28, 2020, Johns Hopkins Medicine says the flu is showing much more of an impact on Americans than COVID-19. You can find up-to-date information on COVID-19 at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
You are much more likely to die from the flu than coronavirus:
- COVID-19: Approximately 89,198 cases worldwide; 86 cases in the U.S. as of March 2, 2020.
- Flu: Estimated 1 billion cases worldwide; 9.3 million to 45 million cases in the U.S. per year.
- COVID-19: Approximately 3,048 deaths reported worldwide; 2 deaths in the U.S., as of March 2, 2020.
- Flu: 291,000 to 646,000 deaths worldwide; 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. per year.
The BBC reports that the Health Secretary for the U.K. says the "very best assessment" was that the mortality rate was "2% or, likely, lower". Deaths were at least five times more common among people with diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart or breathing problems.
- Both the flu and coronavirus cause fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, sometimes vomiting, and diarrhea.
- It can be mild or severe, even fatal in rare cases.
- It can result in pneumonia.
- Neither virus is treatable with antibiotics, which only work on bacterial infections.
- Both may be treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever. Severe cases may require hospitalization and support, such as mechanical ventilation.
The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person.
- Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
- Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Spread from contact with infected surfaces or objects
- It's possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the primary way the virus spreads.
The best ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus (and other viruses):
- Washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, using soap and hot water.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick, sneezing, or coughing.
- Disinfectwork stations, shopping carts, public transportation seats, and more.
- Use a 60% alcohol hand sanitizer
- Also, avoid spreading your own germs by coughing into the crook of your elbow and staying home when you are sick.
Coronavirus: Myth vs. Fact Via Johns Hopkins Medicine
MYTH: A vaccine to cure COVID-19 is available.
FACT: There is no vaccine for the new coronavirus right now.
MYTH: The new coronavirus was deliberately created or released by people.
FACT: Viruses can change over time. Occasionally, a disease outbreak happens when a virus that is common in an animal such as a pig, bat, or bird undergoes changes and passes to humans. This is likely how the new coronavirus came to be.
MYTH: People are dying from COVID-19 in many countries.
FACT: As of March 2, 2020, 2,921 people in China have died from COVID-19, as well as 136 people in other countries. Medical authorities will confirm any fatalities in other areas.
MYTH: Ordering or buying products shipped from China will make a person sick.
FACT: Scientists note that most viruses like this one do not stay alive for very long on surfaces, so it is not likely you would get COVID-19 from a package that was in transit for days or weeks.
MYTH: A face mask will protect you from COVID-19.
FACT: Certain models of professional, tight-fitting respirators (such as the N95) can protect health care workers as they care for infected patients. But for the general public, the benefit of wearing lightweight, disposable surgical masks is not clear. Experts say they may provide some protection from large drops, sprays, or splashes, but because they don't fit tightly, they may allow tiny infected droplets to get into the nose, mouth, or eyes. Also, people with the virus on their hands who touch their face under a mask might become infected. People with a respiratory illness can wear these masks to lessen their chance of infecting others.
[Information from Johns Hopkins and the CDC]