Head of the Center for Infectious Diseases and AIDS prof. According to Saulius Čaplinskas, no self-respecting virologist, immunologist or other similar doctor will say that the coronavirus is the same as the flu.
“There are definitely similarities, but there are also differences. Thus, to say that it is the same would mislead the public. Here are some extremes.
Too much bullying of people, talking to a curfew, turns the fact that you don’t believe the virus at all. It is the same harm to say that there is no coronavirus and that the flu is the same as a cold, he said.
8 times more contagious than the flu
According to the interviewee, although both COVID-19 and flu are caused by viruses, it should be understood that diseases are different.
“Yes, both infections are sensitive to the respiratory tract and the first symptoms are very similar. However, viruses have different properties, so they can affect human health in different ways, ‘he noted.
S. Čaplinskas emphasized that it is now clear that the rate of spread of COVID-19 is approximately 8 times higher than that of influenza.
“In other words, if one person infects one person with the flu and another with 5 waves of coronavirus infection, there will be 8 times more people than with the flu.
And accordingly, in order to stop the spread of such a disease, one person needs to infect no more than one person. Then the epidemic is gradually no longer spreading, “he said.
On the other hand, the virologist noted that it is gradual and it happens, especially when it comes to influenza, as some people have immunity, others get vaccinated,
According to him, the effectiveness of flu vaccines, if they are well suited to the strain of virus that has begun spreading in society, can reach 60-70%.
Distribution times vary
“Also in the case of flu, the virus is transmitted by humans the day before and during the onset of symptoms. This can take up to 7 days on average, sometimes longer for children.
In the case of COVID-19 it is clear that the period of spread may be longer, but most of the distribution still occurs during symptoms and spread is faster, ”explained S. Čaplinskas.
At the same time, he recalled that in the case of outbreaks of SARS and MERS related coronaviruses, the difference was that people were most often infected during symptoms. Therefore, it was much easier to eradicate the epidemic.
When immunity is greater than the enemy than the virus
The interlocutor noted that the clinic of both diseases is also different.
“Yes, in both cases the airways are damaged and the way is opened for other complications – viral, especially bacterial.
Bacterial complications are the basis of flu complications and death. However, in the case of COVID-19, on the one hand, the virus has the property of being able to damage many organs, and on the other hand, the immune system itself can overreact, triggering cytokine storms. By trying to defeat the virus in this way, immunity can do more harm than the virus itself, ”said S. Čaplinskas.
The onset of the flu is reminded to the nearest hour
Speaking about the clinic and the symptoms of the disease, LSMU professor, infectologist Alvydas Laiškonis noted that in the case of influenza, people can usually tell with the accuracy of the day and time when their health has deteriorated.
“Usually, the flu clinic starts very suddenly, so usually a person remembers exactly when they started catching a cold and breaking their bones. Flu is not a loss of taste and smell.
Headache is a common symptom, but there is no shortness of breath that is more common with coronavirus. Besides, people who deal with it complain about the accompanying very great weakness ”- he shared with the doctor.
The “passing” flu will pass in a few years
A. Laiškonis also drew attention to another problem – often the flu, strong people try to “walk”.
However, according to the professor, flu cheating appears here – it can later cause myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle that occurs 2-3 months after the disease, inflammation of the kidneys that also appears after a while, even after 2-3 years.
“The most common complications of influenza are so-called primary influenza pneumonia, which is caused by the flu virus itself and is the most serious pneumonia. Another thing is that the flu usually “opens the door” to and contributes to a bacterial infection streptococcus staphylococcus caused by pneumonia.
Another complication is sinusitis. So, the flu is characterized by very unpleasant complications. But at least we can be glad that we have treatment and prophylaxis, ”summed up A. Laiškonis.
Children get sick more often
The professor also mentioned another difference – many children have the flu.
“From 5 to 10 percent. Populations have influenza, but not all of them are covered by statistics. No effort is made to diagnose every flu case, especially if it is not severe and hospital care is not required. Influenza can be infected from 5 to 10 of the population, children – up to 20 percent.
Coronavirus cases, on the other hand, account for up to 3 percent of children with the coronavirus. And the clinic is different and the infectivity is different. That is why the discussions on the education of children and collectives are not so unambiguous “- compared the interlocutor.
Leading viruses replace “weaker”
Although cases of influenza have already been reported, they are monitored somewhat less frequently. According to A. Laiškonis, there is a theory in virology that if two viral pathogens are present at the same time, usually the stronger virus slightly suppresses the others.
“Coronavirus is more common now, and we’ve had a lot of flu anyway. But now we don’t have much of it yet. But we can be glad that we have the vaccine and the treatment, and the problem of telling whether it’s the flu or the coronavirus arises. So if the clinic is very similar, we look for it, but if it isn’t found, it remains for another virus, he said.
As S. Čaplinskas noted, when a virus changes so that it can infect a human cell faster, it gains an advantage over other viruses.
“When a new virus crosses a species barrier and begins to spread from human to human, remember that it is easier to spread a virus that has changed and adapted to spread more easily than one that has been known for a long time.
But as in nature, the purpose of the virus is to survive and reproduce, so its purpose is not to mutate in that direction to kill its hosts. This does not apply to mutations leading to a more pathogenic, more cruel course of the clinic, he added.
Did you die more of the flu than announced?
The tv3.lt portal reminds that it wrote that the death rate due to Covid-19 is lower than that announced in the spring, but it is difficult to compare it with the mortality rate due to the flu.
“When deaths are recorded, if a person does not die of the flu, although he has had it but has not been diagnosed, naturally the person will not be counted as having died of the flu.
Papuoli, unless they were diagnosed with the flu, a major clinic, it was around 20 a year, but those other deaths when the virus was “around” are not included in the statistics.
In the case of coronavirus, the opposite can sometimes be the case, especially at the very beginning when it was announced that the person had died from the coronavirus, but the question is whether or not he has been diagnosed. Thus, when relying solely on death statistics, if there is no more detailed analysis, one can come to wrong conclusions, ”said S. Čaplinskas.
He noted that the death rate from COVID-19 is now as close as it would be during a severe, intense pandemic flu.
The professor also noted that the cold season is always associated with a greater number of deaths from cardiovascular diseases, lung diseases, diabetes, cancer and other diseases, because various viruses worsen the condition of people with chronic diseases.
“Older age is not a risk factor in itself, but the important thing is that then immunity is weakened and chronic diseases are more common. And it has always been observed that these infections are aggravated in cold weather, and not by cold, but by viruses – flu and other colds. Only when the disease progresses, complications, and the spectrum of clinical phenomena vary, ”he said.