How bad is COVID-19 compared to sessional influenza viruses? Do we really need to be worried about COVID-19? “Isn’t just another variant of the sessional flu?”
We have probably all been in a situation when someone at the table states: “Corona is nothing else than just another version of the flu. We do not shut down the entire society because of the flu…”. Sounds like something you have heard before? What should a proper response be?
What is COVID-19?
First, we need to understand some basic facts about COVID-19 since this is a novel virus. Let us start with the name or abbreviation itself. COVID-19 is the name given by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in February 2020, for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV2.
“WHO guidelines mandated that the name of the disease could not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people. It also needed to relate to the disease and be pronounceable. This choice will help guard against the use of other names that might be inaccurate or stigmatizing.”
Based on the WHO’s guidelines COVID-19 is an acronym that stands for COronaVIrus Disease of 2019.
In 2002 and 2003 we had a pandemic called SARS-CoV (referred to as SARS in the media). SARS is an abbreviation for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. CoV is the abbreviation for Corona Virus. The coronavirus causes severe acute respiratory syndrome in the patients, and the world was startled by the rapid spread. Scientist started to develop a vaccine for SARS back in 2003, because they knew that this virus would surface again at a certain time. And it sure did. COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus. As you can guess, this new virus is a new variant of the old SARS-CoV variant. We are stunned over the fact that it took less than a year to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. This is not entirely true. The mRNA based COVID-19 vaccines are built based on the research that was done for near two decades with the novel SARS-CoV virus and the MERS-CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – Corona Virus) virus in 2012. The SARS-CoV2 virus variant was genotyped in early 2020. This paved the way for the scientists to modify their work on the existing SARS-CoV mRNA-based vaccines that they had been working on for many years. As a result, pharmaceutical companies could present vaccines for Phase I testing already during summer of 2020. This would never have been the case, if it was not for the fact that they had worked with the MERS-CoV vaccine for close to a decade.
Virus: severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
The sessional influenza is not the same as COVID-19. Yes, both the flu and the COVID-19 are caused by a virus – but pretty much ends here. Influenza is a word originated from 14-century Italian phrase “influenza di freddo”, which means something like “caused by the cold”. When people were cold and freezing, they often got sick and with no medicines available they could get severe sick or even die.
We now know that influenza is not caused by freezing or cold weather. It is caused by a virus or set of viruses. At present time we know about 4 groups of the influenza virus. These are:
Influenza A and B virus. These viruses are responsible for the sessional flu. Influenza virus A is known to cause the global flu outbreak (pandemic), whilst influenza virus B do not have this ability
Influenza C virus infections causes mild illness and are not known to cause any pandemics
Influenza D virus is primarily affecting cattle and is not known to infect humans
Viruses are known to mutate and that is why every sessional flu vaccine is adjusted to the current anticipated virus type. Since the vaccine needs to be produced on forehand, scientists need to, based on facts and data, anticipate which variant that is most likely to cause the coming sessional flu – and prepare a vaccine that can cause the immune system to produce the right antigens. Therefore, sometimes the flu vaccine does not have the expected effect on reducing flu infections. To overcome this, pharmaceutical companies may produce not one but two or three different flu vaccines, hoping that one of them will be effective.
Sessional flu vs. COVID-19 mortality
So, back to our opening statement: “Corona is nothing else than just another version of the flu. We do not shut down the entire society because of the flu…”. As we have established COVID-19 and the flu are two completely different viruses. People who compare these two viruses, are often referring to how the infection manifests in the patients with mild influenza like symptoms and the mortality.
After having lived with the pandemic for more than a year now, we do know that COVID-19 is nothing like the flu. As of 9th of April 2021, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, approximately 2,904,554 COVID-19 deaths are reported worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that 290,000 to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year worldwide. This means that despite extreme measurements taken to stop the spread of COVID-19, still between 4,5 – 10 times more people die from COVID-19 than the sessional flu.
On 18th of February 2021, Nature published a scientific report named “Years of life lost to COVID-19 in 81 countries”. This report has calculated how many years of life are lost due to COVID-19, based on mortality reports from 81 countries. The staggering findings is that more than 20,5 million years of life has been lost. The average years of life lost per death is 16 years. In addition, the report shows that men have lost 45% more life years than women.
During the past year we have not only learned how the virus spread, the different mutations, treatments and alike. We have also started to learn about post-COVID conditions. These are symptoms and conditions that occurs weeks and even months, after a patient has been infected with COVID-19. According to CDC, people with COVID report experiencing different combinations of the following symptoms:
Tiredness or fatigue
Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
Loss of smell or taste
Dizziness on standing
Fast-beating or pounding heart (also known as heart palpitations)
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Joint or muscle pain
Depression or anxiety
Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental activities
The true human cost of this pandemic is still yet to be seen. What is for sure, is that people claiming that COVID-19 is just a flu – disregards all medical proof and real-life experience that this is not the case. COVID-19 if far more deadly and have fare more negative long-term effects on the patients that have been infected.
A core value for Provida Medical AS, is that: “Every Life Matters !”. We will continue offering COVID-19 rapid test kits, COVID-19 vaccine and hopefully soon a COVID-19 treatment. We feel confident that our knowledge, combined with our product and service offering, – will save lives!