Head of the Center for Infectious Diseases and AIDS, Prof. According to Saulius Čaplinskas, no self-respecting virologist, immunologist or other physician in a similar field will say that a coronavirus is the same as the flu.
“There are certainly similarities, but there are also differences. So to say it’s the same thing would be misleading to the public. Here are some extremes.
Too much intimidation of people, talk of curfew, reverses the fact that people don’t start believing the virus. It’s the same harm to say there is no coronavirus and flu is the same as a cold, ”he said.
8 times more contagious than the flu
Although both COVID-19 and influenza are caused by viruses, according to the interlocutor, it should be clear that the diseases are different.
“Yes, both infections have damaged airways 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 stressed that it is now clear that the rate at which COVID-19 spreads is about 8 times higher than that of influenza.
“In other words, if one person infects one person with the flu and the other, then with 5 waves of infection, 8 times more people will be infected with the coronavirus than with the flu.
And accordingly, in order to stop the spread of such a disease, it is necessary that one person does not infect more than one person. Then gradually there will be no more epidemic, ”he said.
On the other hand, the virologist noted, this is gradual and happens, especially when it comes to flu, because some people have immunity, others are vaccinated,
According to him, the effectiveness of flu vaccines, if properly matched to the strain of the virus that is beginning to spread in society, can reach 60-70%.
Distribution times vary
“Also in the case of flu, the virus is spread by a person about a 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 spreading period can be longer, but it is usually distributed during the symptoms and that the spread is faster, ”explains S. Čaplinskas.
At the same time, he recalled that in the case of SARS and MERS outbreaks from related coronaviruses, the difference was that people were usually infected at the time of symptoms. Therefore, it was much easier to eradicate the outbreak.
If the immunity is greater than the enemy then the virus
The interviewee pointed out that the clinic of the two diseases is also different.
“Yes, in both cases the airways are damaged and the way is opened for other complications – viral and especially bacterial.
Bacterial complications are the basis for flu and death complications. However, in the case of COVID-19, the virus has the property that it can damage many organs, but the immune system itself can overreact and cause cytokine storms. By trying to defeat the virus in this way, immunity can do more damage than the virus itself, ”said S. Čaplinskas.
The onset of the flu is remembered 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 flu, a person can usually tell with the accuracy of day and hour when their health has deteriorated.
“Usually the flu clinic starts very suddenly, so usually someone remembers exactly when it started to get cold and bones broke. Influenza is not so characterized by loss of taste and smell.
Headache is a common symptom, but there is no shortness of breath more common with coronavirus. Moreover, as far as they are concerned, the patients complain about the very great weakness that goes with it, ”the doctor shared his observations.
The “transient” flu crosses over in a few years
A. Laiškonis also drew attention to another problem – often the flu, strong people trying to “walk”.
However, according to the professor, flu deception occurs here – it can later cause inflammation of the heart muscle, myocarditis, which occurs 2-3 months after the disease, inflammation of the kidneys, which also occurs after a while, even after 2-3 years .
The most common complications of the flu are so-called primary flu pneumonia, which is caused by the flu virus itself and is the most serious of 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. The flu is thus characterized by very unpleasant complications. But at least we can be happy that we have treatment and prevention, ”summarized A. Laiškonis.
Children get sick more often
The professor mentioned another difference: many children have the flu.
“From 5 to 10 percent. Populations get flu, but they don’t all fall in the statistics. No attempt is made to diagnose every case of flu, especially if it is not serious, if inpatient care is not required. It is 5. up to 10 populations that can get the flu, children – even up to 20 percent.
Coronavirus cases, on the other hand, account for up to 3 percent of children with coronavirus. And the clinic is different, and the contagiousness is different. That is why the discussions about the education of children and groups are not so unambiguous ”, compared the discussion partner.
Leading viruses displace ‘weaker’ ones
Although flu cases are already reported, they are slightly less controlled. According to A. Laiškonis, there is such a theory in virology that when there are two viral pathogens at the same time, usually one stronger virus suppresses the other somewhat.
“Coronavirus is more common now and we’ve had a lot of flu anyway. But now I don’t have much of it yet. But we can be glad we have the vaccine and we have the treatment and the problem arises when it comes to it. distinguish between flu or coronavirus. So if the clinic is very similar, we look for it, but if it is not found, it will be left for another virus, “he said.
As S. Čaplinskas noted, when a virus changes so that it can infect a human cell more quickly, it gains an advantage over other viruses.
“When a new virus has crossed a species barrier and has begun to spread from person to person, it must be remembered that it is easier to spread a virus that has changed and adapted more easily than a virus that has been known for a long time.
But as in nature, the virus’s purpose is to survive and multiply, so it is not intended to mutate in that direction to kill its hosts. This is not seen for mutations in a more pathogenic, cruel course of the clinic, ”he added.
Did you die of the flu more than announced?
The portal tv3.lt recalls that it has written that the death rate from Covid-19 is lower than announced in the spring, but it is difficult to compare with the death rate from flu.
“Of course, if deaths are recorded, then a person does not fall into the category of people who have died from the flu if they do not die from the flu, even if they did, but the diagnosis has not been made.
Papuola, unless they were diagnosed with the flu, a serious clinic, there were about 20 a year, but those other deaths when the virus was “close” are not reflected in the statistics.
In the case of the coronavirus, sometimes the opposite may be true, especially in the very beginning when it was announced that someone had died from the coronavirus, but the question is whether or not they have been diagnosed. So if you rely solely on mortality rates, it is possible, if there is no more detailed analysis, to arrive at wrong conclusions, ”said S. Čaplinskas.
He noted that the death rate from COVID-19 is currently as close as it would have been during a severe, intense pandemic flu.
At the same time, the professor noted that the cold season always has a higher number of deaths from cardiovascular disease, lung disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases, as different viruses aggravate the condition of people with chronic diseases.
“Older age in itself is not a risk factor, but the most important thing is that immunity is more weakened and more chronic diseases occur. other colds. Only accordingly, when the disease develops complications, the spectrum of clinical manifestations may differ, “he said.