COVID is Not a Disease You Want to Get
By Annette Pinder
I keep hearing from health care providers that people, even those sick with COVID in our local hospitals, sometimes ask their doctors and nurses, “Is this real?” One local hospital employee recently told me that her friends ask her the same question. So, recently, when someone sent me a playful article about how COVID-19 is nothing more than the common flu, encouraging us all to get on with our lives, I felt a duty to respond.
Flu is certainly nothing to “sneeze at.” About one billion people worldwide get the flu each year and somewhere between 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes. In contrast, as of December 14, 2020, worldwide 1.61 million people have died of COVID, and researchers estimate that deaths resulting from COVID-19 may actually be 10 times higher than that of most strains of the flu.
During a local WBBZ-TV interview, Kaleida Health experts Dr. John Sellick and Dr. Kenneth Snyder responded to questions regarding COVID during which they both emphasized that COVID is very real, and not a disease you want to get!”
Here are some facts.
- COVID-19 and influenza viruses both cause respiratory disease, with symptoms ranging from asymptomatic or mild, to severe disease and death. Both are transmitted by contact, droplets, and fomites, and both can be prevented by mask-wearing, frequent and thorough hand washing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick, and limiting contact with people who are infected. Physical distancing limits the spread of COVID-19 in communities.
- Influenza has a shorter incubation period and shorter serial interval (time between successive cases in a chain of transmission) than COVID. The serial interval for the COVID virus is about 5-6 days. For influenza, it is 3 days. While influenza spreads faster than COVID, the number of secondary infections generated from one infected individual is between 2 and 2.5 for COVID and 1.3 to 1.7 for influenza.
- The range of symptoms for flu and COVID are similar. For COVID, 80 percent of infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15 percent are severe, requiring oxygen, and five percent are critical requiring ventilation, so much higher than influenza infection. Those most at risk for severe influenza infection are children, pregnant women, elderly, individuals with underlying chronic medical conditions, and those who are immunosuppressed. The elderly and those with underlying conditions are at increased risk for severe infection.
- Most of us do not yet have access to the current COVID vaccines, and it will be a while. In contrast, vaccines and antivirals are widely available for influenza. Neither the flu vaccine nor the COVID vaccine can cause the disease.
- COVID complications include long-term lung, heart, kidney, brain, and other organ damage. Influenza complications can include inflammation of the heart or muscles, and multi-organ failure. Secondary bacterial infections sometimes occur following a bout of influenza infection.
To get your questions answered about COVID-19, including information about the vaccines, and what you can do to stay safe, watch Dr. Sellick and Dr. Snyder’s interview on WBBZ-TV on January 6 at 8 pm or on January 9 at noon, or watch it anytime at your convenience and share it with others, at https://youtu.be/jiKiZXOm_Og or at https://buffalohealthyliving.com/buffalo-healthy-living-wbbz-tv.