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Should we fear coronavirus more than seasonal flu?

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Very similar symptoms characterize two different diseases. Should we be worried about a possible COVID-19 contamination? How to tell the difference between the new coronavirus and the flu? Experts take stock.

While the coronavirus epidemic has now spread to the whole world and a first Frenchman died on the night of February 25 to 26, the concern is escalating among the population who are wondering about the differences between the flu and COVID-19.

Meanwhile, seasonal flu kills 60,000 people a year in Europe, said WHO Director for Europe Hans Kluge on Wednesday (26 February) at a press conference in Rome.


According to the Institut Pasteur, which refers to information communicated “by the Chinese authorities for confirmed cases”, the main symptoms are fever and respiratory signs such as cough, a feeling of tightness and / or chest pain and sometimes shortness of breath.

“Runny nose, fever, cough, body aches, fatigue, the first symptoms of COVID-19 are actually comparable to those of the flu,” adds Pierre Parneix, medical officer of health and public health, quoted in Le Journal des Femmes.

But ” the coronavirus has a higher rate of severe forms than the seasonal flu and a higher rate of complications”, he underlines, citing in particular the acute respiratory distress syndrome.


The incubation period for influenza is shorter than that for COVID-19 and ranges from three to six days.

“The duration of the incubation [from Covid-19, editor’s note] is on average five to six days, with extremes of two to 12 days, which justifies the quarantine period of 14 days,” notes the Institut Pasteur.

It is therefore important to “remain very vigilant for at least two weeks for people who may have been in contact with the virus during a trip,” continues Pierre Parneix.

The transmission

The mode of transmission is the same for both diseases: by air when the patient coughs or sneezes, by close contact between two people or by an object or a surface touched by a patient, he explains.

According to him, the contagiousness of COVID-19 is slightly higher than that of seasonal flu.
Thus, the average number of people to whom a patient is at risk of transmitting the virus is between two and three for COVID-19, while it is one for seasonal influenza .

Should we worry?

“Anyone with an acute respiratory infection (fever, cough, shortness of breath) within 14 days after returning from a stay in a risk area” should call the Samu “who will decide what to do,” says the Pastor Institute.

“If you do not come back from a stay in an area of ​​active circulation of the virus, there is no reason to think that you have the coronavirus since at present, the circulation of the virus is considered to be very weak in France,” notes Pierre Parneix.

He adds that in this case, it is not useful to ask the Samu and just go to his doctor.

The diagnosis

The Institut Pasteur announces that a specific test has been developed by the National Reference Center for Respiratory Infections Viruses and that it is “available in many hospitals in French national territory”.

“The suspicion of the diagnosis is currently based on the existence of signs of acute respiratory infection in a person exposed to the virus during the 14 days preceding the onset of symptoms,” he explains.

According to Pierre Parneix, it is still difficult to precisely assess the mortality rate from coronavirus , but it is already possible to see that the rate of severe forms is higher.

“Compared to the flu, more patients affected by the coronavirus are hospitalized in intensive care,” he notes.

The situation

The Institut Pasteur recalls that on February 24, 2020, according to the WHO, 80,239 cases were confirmed worldwide for the new coronavirus SARS-Cov-2, including 77,780 in China.

Outside China, 2,069 cases have been reported in 33 countries. To date, there have been 2,666 deaths in China and 34 outside China.

In France, on February 25, 2020, the Ministry of Health reported 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in France. 11 are healed. Two new cases have been diagnosed and treated in hospital since February 25.

A French patient died in France. The previous patient who died of the virus in the country was an 80-year-old Chinese tourist.


This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.

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