Coronavirus symptoms and differences with flu symptoms

Coronavirus symptoms and differences with flu symptoms

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Among the most frequently asked questions that Google records these days are those relating to symptoms of the Coronavirus COVID-19 and more precisely at differences between coronavirus symptoms compared to seasonal flu symptoms.

In my article today I will try to answer these questions, using only accredited medical sources with related links.

What is the Coronavirus

First we must know that the "CoronavirusIs not a specific disease. The "Coronaviruses" are in fact a large family of viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to much more serious diseases such as MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome) and the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) of which it is good to know some information.

The MERS-CoV was first identified in Jordan and Saudi Arabia in 2012 as the cause of Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, a viral infection that causes severe flu-like symptoms.
From the beginning of 2018 to today (March 2020), 2,200 confirmed cases of MERS have been detected, leading to 790 deaths.

Symptoms of MERS they appear on average 5 days after contracting the infection (but they can also appear before or after, in a variable period between 2 and 14 days) and consist of: fever, muscle aches, cough and chills. 30% of patients also have complaints such as vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain.

To date, most cases of MERS have occurred in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. Some patients who contracted the virus in those areas were then ascertained and hospitalized in some European states and in South Korea.

MERS-CoV infection is fatal for about one third of infected patients.

The SARS-CoV it was first identified in China in 2002 and spread throughout 2003, leading to an epidemic that was widespread in many states around the world including the United States and Canada.

From 2002 to 2004, the year in which the last case was reported, MERS caused over 800 deaths, out of a total of over 8,000 confirmed cases. The lethality rate was therefore 10%.

THE symptoms of SARS are similar to those of MERS and include fever, headache, chills and body aches, followed by dry cough and difficulty breathing.

The COVID-19, full and official scientific name SARS-CoV2 (and name we read in all the newspapers "Coronavirus") was first identified in late 2019 in China, in Wuhan.

From 2019 to today (March 17, 2020) the cases of Coronavirus COVID-19 confirmed in the world are over 28,000 and are growing rapidly.

It is possible to monitor the situation with data, broken down by each country in the world and updated several times a day, in this one interactive map by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The incubation period of the Coronavirus COVID-19 is currently estimated at a number of days ranging between 2 and 14 days.

The Symptoms of the Coronavirus COVID-19

THE symptoms of the Coronavirus COVID-19 are similar to those of the other Coronaviruses previously described (MERS and SARS) and are quite similar to the symptoms of the common flu:

  • temperature
  • dry cough
  • sore throat
  • widespread fatigue
  • difficulty in breathing / wheezing
  • muscle aches
  • diarrhea
  • nasal congestion and runny nose

Another symptom common to about 2/3 of the cases is the loss of taste and smell: infected people no longer feel the normal taste of food and no longer smell. This symptom was identified by prof. Hendrik Streeck, a virologist from Bonn who is coordinating investigations in the Heinsberg area, the main outbreak of COVID-19 in Germany.

In addition, it is VERY IMPORTANT to know that, unlike what happened for MERS and SARS, a high percentage of patients infected with COVID-19 do NOT have symptoms and are therefore defined asymptomatic.

The symptoms listed above can also appear individually. Initially they are mild and then gradually intensify with the evolution of the infection.

The deaths recorded following the COVID-19 infection occur in the majority of cases following the onset of more serious diseases and in particular interstitial pneumonia.

Compared to the banal flu, the main difference is that the symptoms of Coronavirus COVID-19 focus much more on respiratory problems with dry cough and a feeling of not being able to breathe.

Coronavirus mortality - COVID-19

There mortality registered so far of the Coronavirus COVID-19 it is much lower than those of MERS and SARS, i.e. it is quantified in one percentage variable between 3% and 6% based on the cases detected in China and between 1% and 5% based on the cases detected in the rest of the world (Source and more information in this article: - in English )

The problem (or the good news, depending on your point of view) related to calculating COVID-19 mortality versus calculating SARS and MERS mortality is that official data cannot consider asymptomatic patients who are not registered in hospitals. and who overcome the disease on their own by staying at home.

According to estimates made by WHO experts in recent days, the number of asymptomatic patients or patients with limited symptoms could be even higher than initially thought. At this point the mortality data would be much lower than the percentages just indicated.

Why is Coronavirus dangerous - COVID-19

At this point, considering that the Coronavirus COVID-19 mortality it is much lower than that of other Coronaviruses such as MERS and SARS, many will wonder why we are all "closed at home".

The answer comes fromR0 namely the rate of transmission from an infected person to healthy people.

In the histogram that follows you can see the Ro rate of some diseases compared to each other. As you will see, the most contagious disease identified is measles which has an R0 of 15 which means that on average each infected person infects another 15.

Then follows the chickenpox (smallpox) with an R0 of 4.8 then SARS with an R0 of 3 and then the Coronavirus COVID-19 with an R0 of 2.8.

As you can see, theseasonal flu has an infection rate equal to less than half that of the Coronavirus COVID-19.

Source: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control, King Saud University, Nature

The second important reason why it is important to fight the Coronavirus COVID-19 with the utmost firmness is due to the need to treat patients who contract the virus and who have breathing difficulties, often resulting from interstitial pneumonia, within special resuscitation wards, equipped with machinery and qualified medical personnel able to manage the machinery and administer adequate care to patients.

In the absence of adequate assistance and treatment, respiratory failure can lead to death.

The only way to reduce the number of deaths following a Coronavirus COVID-19 epidemic, while waiting for science to develop an effective vaccine, is therefore to reduce as much as possible the number of infected patients who need a hospitalization in resuscitation and therefore consequently, it is necessary to reduce the number of infected people in absolute value.

The intensive care places available in our hospitals are in fact limited and it is not easy to create new ones in a short time, given the need for adequate space, infrastructure, machinery and personnel.

It is therefore essential to reduce the number of infected and sick people in the same "period" by trying to distribute the infections along a more dilated time curve, so that the recovered patients free up beds in intensive care for the newly infected.

To better understand this concept, I submit to your attention this graph which represents the number of cases on the ordinate axis, the time elapsed since the first case on the abscissa axis and in the two orange and blue curves respectively the trend following the 'adoption of protective measures and the trend without protective measures.

The black dotted line represents the maximum ability to manage sick patients adequately.

As you can understand, it is essential to delay and distribute the peak of cases over time to avoid exceeding the maximum number of patients that can be managed by the health system.

Source: Connie Hanzang JIN / NPR

So I hope I have clarified why it is important that at this moment all of us stay as much as possible in our homes, renouncing any unnecessary travel.

At the same time it is necessary to strictly follow the following recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the WHO in order to avoid contagion:

  • wash your hands often;
  • avoid close contact with people suffering from acute respiratory infections
  • avoid hugs and handshakes
  • maintaining, in social contacts, an interpersonal distance of at least one meter
  • sneeze and / or cough into a handkerchief avoiding hand contact with respiratory secretions
  • avoid sharing bottles and glasses
  • do not touch your eyes, nose and mouth with your hands
  • cover your mouth and nose if you sneeze or cough
  • clean the surfaces with chlorine or alcohol based disinfectants;

Another related article of ours that might interest you is the one on when the Coronavirus will end.

Other sources I used to write this article, in addition to those already mentioned:

Merck & Co., a multinational pharmaceutical company founded 125 years ago and a world leader in the health sector:,-mers,-sars


Video: Coronavirus vs. flu: Whats the difference? (June 2022).