Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging

Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging

Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging


Influenza is much more dangerous than Corona, one hears from many sides at the moment. But the facts are a bit more complex.

The sentence "You can't compare that!" Is a popular discussion killer. In fact, you can pretty much compare anything to anything. For example, apples with pears. If you are really analytical, you will find similarities and differences.

This is exactly how we humans make the world accessible. We form categories, organize things, thoughts, feelings, concepts and living things into narrow and less narrow groups.

Apples and pears are about the same size, they both belong to the pome fruit, they are liked by most people. But they are not the same, for example they have different shapes, they taste different, they get mushy at different speeds. They also have different potentials to cause diarrhea.

What does this have to do with the corona virus? It is also often compared at the moment. Especially with influenza. And that's fine. Comparing the corona virus with the annual winter flu is like comparing apples to pears .

Covid -19, flu or just a cold?

These are the perceptual between the symptoms of the three diseases.
Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging

Coronavirus: infection of the mouth and throat

Both belong to the viruses, even to a certain group, the RNA viruses. Both can make you sick, both affect the throat and sometimes the lungs. Both are pretty contagious. The diseases that trigger both can be mild or serious, and can also be fatal.

Both endanger especially immunocompromised people. Very often these are older people - for their less agile defense system there is the technical term of immune senescence. Even the therapy is similar: there are only a few drugs that work against the respective virus, so the symptoms are combated and the possibly impaired body functions are supported, in serious cases, for example, by ventilation.

Flu viruses and Sars-Cov-2, as the virus that officially appeared in Wuhan in 2019, also differ in many ways. Even if they are assigned to the same “area” of RNA viruses by virus systematics, they already belong to completely different “strains” at the next level.

If one could equate the classifications here with those of zoology, they would differ as much as vertebrates from insects.

The lethality of Covid-19 is higher than that of the flu

And one thing is becoming increasingly clear: Covid-19, the disease triggered by the new coronavirus called Sars-Cov-2, is probably much more often fatal than flu. There are no reliable statistics yet. And in the early stages of infection outbreaks, the death rate often appears to be significantly higher than it actually is, because many cases with milder courses are often not recognized.

However, according to Bruce Aylward, who led the international mission to the outbreak area in Hubei Province, everything indicates that the proportion of serious or fatalities is in any case not as low in the alcohol range as with influenza.

According to current estimates, one percent of those infected with Sars-CoV-2 could die, which would mean a ten-fold higher mortality rate than flu viruses.

Another important difference is that there is no vaccination against Sars-CoV-2, and it will not be available too soon either.

Significantly higher risk of infection with the corona virus

In addition, the coronavirus may be significantly more contagious than flu viruses. At least it is now known that despite not particularly pronounced disease symptoms, the virus density in the upper throat of infected people can be significantly higher than that of flu patients.

And from the upper pharynx, the path is short to the next person or surface that someone can touch - especially when nobody knows what is happening in this or that throat and therefore nobody is careful.

And because the virus is new to humans, it has no immunity to it.

Background to the corona virus:


  • What you need to know about the corona virus: The 66 most important questions and answers
  • The virus in real time: the most important figures on infections in Germany and worldwide
  • With face masks against the corona virus? What really protects against the transmission of germs
  • Study by Frankfurt researchers:  Corona viruses are probably also transmitted by healthy people
  • What parents need to know about the corona virus : "Covid-19 is no worse than the flu for children"
  • One country is successfully fighting the corona virus: How Taiwan prevented the Covid 19 outbreak

But there is still a decisive difference to the comparison between apples and pears. Very little is known about the new corona virus compared to flu viruses. It is as if we had grown apples in our gardens, traded with them, eaten them.

And suddenly, at the weekly market, this new, somewhat strange-looking fruit lies in a wooden box, the properties of which we first have to find out.

Is there a mutation in the corona virus?

Scientists are trying to find out as much as possible about the virus that triggers Covid-19. So far - unlike with influenza - not only do you not know anything about how deadly it really is, i.e. what percentage of those infected will ultimately die.

They also don't know much about his tendency to mutate to change its properties, making it more dangerous or less dangerous. They do not know whether spring and summer will have a similar dampening effect on the infection rate as with flu.

Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging
Why the comparison of coronavirus and flu is lagging
They don't know exactly how the virus works to multiply in the upper throat without making people feel particularly sick. And they do not know why, although mostly older and immunocompromised people are at risk of serious illnesses, it is not only in isolated cases that young, actually healthy people die from the disease.

It is true that the flu kills many more people every year than has been the victim of the corona virus. Nobody knows whether this will remain the case .

But one thing is even more important: All those who are now complaining that warnings about the flu that has actually killed more people in Germany so far have been neglected: One thing to be disregarded: the flu and the coronavirus are actually quite different, but they are very similar in one : in the way they are transmitted and how you can protect yourself against transmission.

Precautions against Covid-19 also help against the flu

If people suddenly start to discover these really simple and actually always life-saving protective measures for themselves and in every flu season, this will also have an impact on the flu infection rate. Also on the flu death rate.

These rules of conduct range from regular thorough hand washing to sneezing and coughing etiquette and staying at home with symptoms of illness to prohibiting grandma and grandpa from contacting sick grandchildren.

We will never know the names of all those who have not died because of an infection avoided as a result. However, we do not know the names of those who quit smoking and therefore did not get lung cancer, just as little as those of the children who did not die from measles vaccination.

So should we stop quitting or vaccinate?

Corona provides information and precautionary measures, but without taking panic seriously also works against flu. Taking Corona seriously now actually means the chance that fewer people will die of respiratory viruses in Germany this year than in a typical flu season. Taking Corona seriously and acting prudently saves lives.

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