Like most of you, we are all aware of the coronavirus, but how exactly does it compare to the normal flu strains that kill thousands of people every year?

I Googled “What’s the difference between regular flu and coronavirus” and clicked on the first thing I thought would answer my questions.

If one is interested, he or she can visit and read the Live Science article by Rachael Rettner (updated Saturday).

Before I continue today, let me say I believe coronavirus is like a bad strain of flu, much like others we’ve experienced in the past 20 years, and all normal precautions need to be taken.

And, like most flus, the one’s who are most at risk are the elderly and those who have underlying medical conditions.

What I can’t stand is the way the coronavirus is being used politically, or some of the crazy posts on social media.

Some idiot asked me on one social media platform, simply because I wasn’t freaking out adequately enough for him, “So, you don’t have a problem with your parents dying from this?”

What kind of stupid question is that?

For the record, last year my parents couldn’t visit each other for at least a week in the nursing home at which they reside because one of the residents got the flu. They were quarantined to their rooms.

I have to admit I joked with them after it was all over about how it felt to be sent to their rooms when they didn’t do anything wrong since that happened to me so many times growing up!

Now, back to the basic question in my Google Search.

The following is the opening paragraphs of Rettner’s article:

“The new coronavirus outbreak has made headlines in recent weeks, but there’s another viral epidemic hitting countries around the world - flu season. But how do these viruses compare, and which one is really more worrisome?

“So far, the new coronavirus has led to more than 100,000 illnesses and more than 3,000 deaths worldwide. But that’s nothing compared with the flu, also called influenza. In the U.S. alone, the flu has caused an estimated 34 million illnesses, 350,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths this season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“That said, scientists have studied seasonal flu for decades. So, despite the danger of it, we know a lot about flu viruses and what to expect each season. In contrast, very little is known about the new coronavirus and the disease it causes, dubbed COVID-19, because it’s so new. This means COVID-19 is something of a wild card in terms of how far it will spread and how many deaths it will cause.”

Further down in the article it compares COVID-19 to the “normal” flu. The following are just bullet points from the article.

• Both seasonal flu viruses (which include influenza A and influenza B viruses) and COVID-19 are contagious viruses that cause respiratory illness.

• Typical flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea, according to the CDC. Flu symptoms often come on suddenly. Most people who get the flu will recover in less than two weeks. But in some people, the flu causes complications, including pneumonia. So far this flu season, about 1% of people in the United States have developed symptoms severe enough to be hospitalized, which is similar to the rate last season, according to data from the CDC.

• With COVID-19, doctors are still trying to understand the full picture of disease symptoms and severity. Reported symptoms in patients have varied from mild to severe, and can include fever, cough and shortness of breath, according to the CDC.

• A recent study, considered the largest on COVID-19 cases to date, researchers from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Protection, analyzed 44,672 confirmed cases in China between Dec. 31, 2019 and Feb. 11, 2020. Of those cases, 80.9% were considered mild, 13.8% severe, and 4.7% critical.

• The death rate from seasonal flu is typically around 0.1% in the U.S., according to The New York Times. The death rate for COVID-19 appears to be higher than that of the flu, but appears to vary by location and an individual’s age, among other factors. Though the death rate for COVID-19 is unclear, most research suggests it is higher than that of the seasonal flu.

• The measure scientists use to determine how easily a virus spreads is known as the “basic reproduction number,” or R0 (pronounced R-nought). This is an estimate of the average number of people who catch the virus from a single infected person, Live Science previously reported. The flu has an R0 value of about 1.3, according to The New York Times. Researchers are still working to determine the R0 for COVID-19. Preliminary studies have estimated an R0 value for the new coronavirus to be between 2 and 3.

• It’s important to note that seasonal flu, which causes outbreaks every year, should not be confused with pandemic flu, or a global outbreak of a new flu virus that is very different from the strains that typically circulate. This happened in 2009 with the swine flu pandemic, which is estimated to have killed between 151,000 and 575,000 people worldwide, according to the CDC. There is no flu pandemic happening currently.

• Unlike seasonal flu, there is no vaccine for COVID-19.


In general, the CDC recommends the following to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which include both coronaviruses and flu viruses:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick

• Stay home when you are sick

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Of course, if one is elderly, or has underlying medical conditions, he or she should be extra cautious.

My plan is to keep living life to the fullest and use common sense … sort of like the way I was raised. The one thing I haven’t done, and won’t do until this stuff passes, is book our annual anniversary cruise.

But to be honest, the reason I’m holding off booking the cruise is not the fear of getting sick. The reason is I can’t afford to be away from the office three or four weeks because someone nabs the coronavirus and we’re forced into quarantine in a floating petri dish.

Until next week, have a good week.

Mike Probst can be reached at

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