Is novel coronavirus a kind of flu?

By Zhao Shiyue and Ma Chi | | Updated: 2020-03-14 07:30

Rumor: The novel coronavirus is a kind of flu.


The COVID-19 and influenza are both respiratory infectious diseases, with similar symptoms including fever and cough, but they are not the same. The differences lie in several aspects - causes, mortality rates, transmission and treatment. 

Students wear masks amid a health scare over the novel coronavirus in a Chinese school in Quezon City, Philippines, Jan 28, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Causes and symptoms

Both the COVID-19 and flu are diseases caused by a virus. In the case of flu, the pathogens are influenza viruses, and for COVID-19, it is a novel coronavirus, known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Common symptoms for influenza and novel coronavirus are nearly identical - fever, cough and fatigue, sometimes sore throat and diarrhea. In severe cases, they result in pneumonia, and even death in the worst cases.

Flu has seasonal ups and downs. Although it can exist all year round, the virus infects more people in winter and spring.

As for the novel coronavirus, there is not yet enough evidence showing how it would respond to changing weather.

Mortality rate and susceptible populations

The mortality rate for the novel coronavirus is around 3.7 percent globally as of March 13, higher than that for influenza, which has a mortality of usually below 0.1 percent.

Generally, people with poor immunity, especially children and seniors, are more likely to catch seasonal flu and develop into severe cases.

As for the novel coronavirus, the median age for the infected is 51, according to a report from the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19. Individuals at the highest risk for severe disease include seniors and those with underlying conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.

Disease in children is relatively rare, and most cases among children are relatively mild.

But the novel coronavirus is a brand new virus, and no one has total immunity no matter their age.

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