POST – How is Covid-19 Different From the Typical Annual “Flu”?

To understand how Covid-19 and the Flu are different, let’s first list how they are similar (in simple non-medical terms):

  • Covid-19 and the annual Flu are both “viruses”.
  • Both spread from person-to-person contact.
  • Both viruses are “inhaled” and cause a lung infection.
  • Both have VERY similar symptoms (fever, cough, runny nose, muscle aches, fatigue, etc).

If they are so similar, why is Covid-19 causing such a panic and why is it declared a “pandemic”?

To understand Covid-19, we must first understand how the Flu is spread and what harm it causes.

  • Every year in the US, approximately 40,000 people die from the Flu.
  • It is estimated that the Flu kills approximately 0.1% of those infected
  • Which means that annually (by doing simple math), 40 million people suffer from the Flu
  • Through years of observation and epidemiological studies, the Flu has a “R0” of 1.3.

What is R0?

  • R0 is pronounced “R-naught” (“naught” means “zero”)
  • With an R0 of 1, then any given person with an infection will spread (transmits) the infection to 1 other person, who then spreads it to one other person, etc.
  • This “spread” continues until the virus stops spreading and slowly “dies out” for the season.

What is the R0 for Covid-19?

  • The R0 for Covid-19 is estimated to be between 2.5 and 3.0.
  • For discussion sake, let’s assume R0 for Covid-19 is 3 and R0 for the Flu is 1.
  • If one person gets infected with Covid-19, he will pass it onto 3 people.
  • Each of those 3 people will pass it onto 3 more people (9).
  • Each of those 9 people will pass it onto 3 more people (27).
  • So, with just 2 transmissions, 37 people are infected (1 + 9 + 27).
  • In contrast, after 2 transmissions, the Flu will have infected a total of 3 people.

WHAT A DIFFERENCE !!!


What does this mean for actual Covid-19 infections and death rate?

  • After everything is said and done, because of such a high R0, I truly believe (and this is only my guestimate), 80-90% of the US citizens will be infected.
  • But, for discussion sake, let’s assume 25% will be infected (88 million out of 350 million)
  • We do not know the actual death rate of Covid-19, but it will certainly NOT be 2 or 3%.
  • Once we have proper testing in-place, I feel we will have a death rate of 0.5%.
  • With a death rate of 0.5%, out of 88 million infected, then 440,000 US residents will die from Covid-19

Bottom line – 440,000 dying from Covid-19 is MUCH, MUCH higher than the 40,000 that die annually from the “Flu”. 

This is why the health care workers and government officials are scared of this virus.


At the end of the day, Covid-19 is a “bad flu”, BUT, because of it’s high transmission rate (R0), the total number of infected and total number dying from Covid-19 will be EXTREMELY high.

We all need to do our part.

  • Do not get scared.
  • Do not panic.
  • Take any and all precautions to AVOID getting infected.
  • For prevention, stay well hydrated, take all of your daily medications, take vitamin supplements

If you have symptoms of the “flu” –

  • Do NOT worry.
  • Do NOT panic !!
  • More than likely, everyone in your household will also get the infection
  • Take Tylenol for fever
  • Drink plenty of fluids (e.g Gatorade), hot soup, and nutritious meals (avoid junk food)
  • If you have Covid-19, this infection will last a few days longer than the typical “flu”
  • If you develop shortness of breath or a very high fever (over 102), then go to your emergency room
  • DO NOT overload the emergency services with mild symptoms

Stay Safe !

  • Sudhir S. Athni, MD

 

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