Some people are claiming that there isn’t that much difference between the new novel coronavirus COVID-19 (also now known as SARS-CoV-2), however there are some striking differences.
Pandemic vs Seasonal
The normal flu that tens of millions of people get annually is a seasonal illness. Most people will have some built up immunity to it because it’s been around for a long time. Generally, only some people are at real risk including those who are elderly, pregnant, obese, etc.
A pandemic flu (also COVID-19) is a brand new strain for which no one has immunity. These can leave everyone at risk and spread more rapidly. The deadliest outbreak in recorded history was also a flu, which killed 675,000 Americans in 1918.
COVID-19 vs H1N1
There has been a perception that the current outbreak is worse for older people, while the previous H1N1 pandemic from 2009 had a greater effect on younger people. However, new research from the CDC is showing that it’s pretty bad no matter what age.
Among hospitalized adults admitted for COVID-19
- 20% were 20 to 44 years old, 12% of ICU patients.
- 35% were 45 to 64 years old and 36% of ICU patients.
There also seems to be a striking difference between the mortality rate between COVID-19 and H1N1:
- From April 12, 2009 to April 10, 2010, there were 60.8 million cases, 274,000 hospitalizations, and 12,469 deaths (0.02% case fatality rate) from H1N1.
- The CDC is currently estimating case-fatality risk for 2019 novel coronavirus disease cases in China (3.5%); China, excluding Hubei Province (0.8%); 82 countries, territories, and areas (4.2%); and on a cruise ship (0.6%). Lower estimates might be closest to the true value, but a broad range of 0.25%–3.0% probably should be considered.
That estimate means in the best possible case the mortality rate is 12 times greater. And in the worst case… well let’s not think about it. Business Insider put together this chart based on Johns Hopkins information that illustrates the death rates.
COVID-19 Infection Rates
Another differentiator of the current coronavirus outbreak is the virulent nature, as well as the severity of the disease. This is a great chart from Vox based on CDC and other data to illustrate:
The Effect on Caregivers
When you combine a 19% hospitalization rate and a 10-20 times greater death rate, you end up with a situation like this hospital in Italy. They failed to control exposure and it overwhelmed the system.
The Bottom Line
All of the actual data points to the fact that the current COVID-19 pandemic should be taken far more seriously than the seasonal flu.
- The rate of transmission is double that of the flu
- The rate of hospitalization is about 15 times greater
- The mortality rate is at a minimum 12 times greater
With all of these factors combined, if we don’t take it seriously we’ll end up with a situation that is far more like the 1918 pandemic which killed 675,000 Americans – except this time since our population is more than three times greater we could be looking at 1.5 million lives lost.