Coronavirus vs. the flu

The novel coronavirus outbreak has been a concern in recent weeks. Still, there’s another viral disease threatening countries around the world: the flu season. So which one is scarier?

The new coronavirus caused more than 9,300 deaths and more than 220,000 illnesses worldwide. According to the CDC, it can be compared with the flu, also called influenza. The flu caused 36 million illnesses and 22,000 deaths this season in the U.S.

But scientists have studied seasonal flu for years. Therefore, we know a lot about flu viruses, despite the danger of it. On the other hand, we know very little about the new coronavirus and the conditions it causes.

Scientists are trying to find out more about COVID-19, and our understanding of this virus may change as new information releases.

Symptoms and severity

Both seasonal flu viruses and COVID-19 are deadly viruses that cause respiratory sickness.

According to the CDC, typical flu symptoms are fever, cough, sore throat, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, runny nose, and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea. Flu symptoms often come on suddenly. Most people who get sick with the flu will recover in less than two weeks. But in some people, the flu causes more severe complications, including pneumonia.

Researchers are still trying to discover the full view of symptoms and the severity of COVID-19. Known symptoms in patients are varied from mild to severe. Known symptoms as far are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. The less common symptoms include headache, sore throat, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

According to WHO, it’s important to remark that because respiratory viruses induce similar symptoms, it can be challenging to recognize different respiratory viruses based on symptoms alone.

Mortality rate

The death rate from seasonal flu is around 0.1% in the U.S.

Although the mortality rate for COVID-19 is not clear, most research suggests it will be higher than that of the seasonal flu.

Virus transmission

The R0 value of flu is around 1.3. R0 or the “basic reproduction number” is the measure that scientists use to define how easily a virus spreads.

Researchers are still working to discover the R0 for COVID-19. Preceding studies have estimated an R0 value for the novel coronavirus between 2 and 3. It means that each infected person has spread the virus to an average of 2 to 3 people.

It’s important to know that R0 is not a constant number. Estimates can change by location, depending on various factors.

Risk of disease

The CDC estimates that about 8% of the U.S. population gets sick with the flu each season.

There are 9,415 reported cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. as of March 19. The CDC expects that public transmission of the new coronavirus will occur. In the coming months, most of the U.S. population will be endangered to the virus.


It’s important to note that seasonal flu should not be confused with pandemic flu. This happened before in 2009 with the swine flu pandemic. There is no flu pandemic happening currently.

The WHO announced the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. It is the first time WHO has declared a pandemic over a coronavirus.


There is a vaccine for seasonal flu to protect against infection, but there is no such thing as the COVID-19 vaccine.

Researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health are in the early stages of developing a vaccine for COVID-19.

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