With the mixed reactions to COVID-19 add to the common man’s dilemma on what COVID-19 really — a serious infection or a common flu.
According to Andy Pekosz–professor of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, hearing people compare the flu to COVID-19 “borders on making me incredibly angry.”
“We have dealt with patients who are teenagers, we’ve dealt with patients who are healthy adults who have come in with very, very serious disease,” says Pekosz. “Our hospital staff is working like crazy to keep up with the demand of patients that are coming in. It’s all around us, the effects of this disease…there are thousands of sick people every day that are coming into our hospitals. And that doesn’t happen with flu.”
We have seen outbreaks of the recent 2009 H1N1 pandemic that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, but people have short memories of an influenza virus that has ravaged humanity. While the 1918 influenza pandemic killed an estimated 50 million people globally, scientists have rolled out effective vaccines against the flu and the human bodies have developed natural immunity after repeatedly exposure.
So how is SARS-CoV-2 dangerous?
The coronavirus pandemic is different from the seasonal flu because of its death toll. COVID-19 has so far claimed 1.6 million people worldwide; this includes over than 300,000 Americans. Scientists and doctors are still scrambling to keep up with the medical supplies and the attention required. They are yet to understand and treat the disease, but waves of people keep falling prey.
Thankfully, we now have treatments like Remdesivir for severe cases, doctors have revised their approach to treatment, and one vaccine has recently been authorized for emergency use.
However, more people are ending up at the hospital with the coronavirus. Hospitals become crowded with COVID-19 patients, the question of where to put patients with other illnesses arises. “At a certain point, it becomes very difficult to provide the level and quality of care that you want to provide for your patients,” says Dr. Paul Thottingal, national lead for infectious disease for Kaiser Permanente.
In the current scenario, the best approach is to follow public-health guidance like donning the mask and maintaining social distancing. This will help curb the seasonal flu, too. “There is no silver bullet for managing critical [COVID-19] illness,” says Thottingal. “The silver bullet is actually preventing the infection in the first place.”