One of the biggest mistakes that was made by the medical community as the COVID-19 pandemic began to take form was the comparison of COVID-19 to the flu. Until the hospital and death numbers started to rise there were many commentators that kept referring to COVID-19 as “a nasty flu.” What are the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and the flu?
I had originally planned on presenting a list, based upon many articles from the CDC, NIH, etc. but there is a short article from Johns Hopkins that does this comparison quite well. Bottom line? There is virtually nothing that is the same about the flu and COVID-19 other than (1) we contact the viruses from the air for the most part, and (2) the viruses attack the respiratory system. Again, most of the time. To look at COVID-19 as “a nasty flu” is to do so at your peril. And then the story gets worse.
At the present time (early June 2020) the scientific community can’t even tell us whether the virus will go away as warm weather hits (ala the flu), or whether it will be back again in the Fall. In a May 3 article in the New York Times:
“We are really early in this disease,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Research Institute. “If this were a baseball game, it would be the second inning and there’s no reason to think that by the ninth inning the rest of the world that looks now like it hasn’t been affected won’t become like other places.”
Second inning? Why don’t scientists know more about this virus? Because it was only identified in early January 2020 and the virus is unique. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 has ever been seen before! They don’t know if it will go away in the summer, be back in the fall, or disappear forever (that is unlikely).
How about immunity? At least if I get COVID-19 and recover from it, I will be immuned. Maybe. Again, we don’t know. How can you say that those who get the disease are immuned if we have only known about the disease for about six months? The common cold and the deadly SARS (2003) are viruses from the same family as SARS-CoV-2, the COVID-19 virus. Immunity to the common cold lasts about one year. Immunity from SARS lasts about four years. Immunity from SARS-CoV-2? Who knows!
In the final analysis, we are dealing with something that the scientific community is still learning about. We need to respect that. We cannot continue to be what Thomas Friedman refers to as our tendency to be “dumb-as-we-wanna-be.”
Wear your mask. Practice both social and physical distancing. Then the odds are in your favor that you will make it through this until a long-term solution is found.