Wednesday, July 01, 2020

5 horrifying facts that prove coronavirus is not the flu by Priscilla Aguirre, San Antonio Express-News

Priscilla Aguirre

June 30, 2020  Updated: July 1, 2020 1:26 p.m.

The novel coronavirus shares a few similarities with the common flu, but as cases surge throughout the city and state, it's worth refresher: The two are not the same.
"To all the unbelievers out there ... take a tour of any hospital in San Antonio right now, any emergency room, and you will quickly see that things are not business as usual," said Dr. Ruth Berggren, an infectious disease specialist with the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio.
Berggren said doctors and experts continue to gather new information about COVID-19 and the data is rapidly-evolving (already a stark difference from the flu), which is why, she says, people should wear face masks and take the virus seriously.
"Our hospitals are getting overrun," Berggren said. "Our worry is that we are going to be in a very ugly situation of having to make decisions on who gets a ventilator and who doesn't."
Here are 5 key differences between the influenza and COVID-19, according to Berggren.
Some symptoms are different ⁠— and worse: 
According to the World Health Organization, 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or asymptomatic, 15% are severe (requiring oxygen) and 5% are critical (requiring ventilation).
Getting short of breath is a common indicator of COVID-19. The shortness of breath will cause inflammation in the body, preventing the lungs from oxygenating the blood property, something not associated with the common flu.
"It's kind of scary in that way," Berggren said. "People just start having a low level of oxygen in their blood and it's not really associated with a huge amount of respiratory symptoms."
It's because of these worst-case-scenario symptoms that the demand on hospital resources during the COVID-19 crisis has not occurred before in the U.S., even during the worst of influenza seasons, according to the Journal of American Medicine.
Coronavirus patients can also experience a loss of taste and smell, Berggren said. She added runny noses are much more common in influenza than in COVID-19.

Studies have shown that, despite being considered a respiratory disease, COVID-19 can wreak havoc on nearly any organ in the body, including the liver, kidneys and even the brain.

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found cognitive difficulties and confusion in some coronavirus patients — signs of “encephalopathy,” the general term for brain damage.

Cases in which COVID-19 inflames blood vessels can lead to blood clots forming down the road, Berggren said. These can also affect any organ in the body. Some people with COVID-19 also develop heart problems in which the heart vessel does not pump properly.

Incubation period: It only takes one to four days to get sick from the flu after exposure, but  it takes two to 14 days for individuals to get sick after COVID-19 exposure, Berggren said.

The average person becomes sick on day five after exposure to coronavirus. Additionally, most infected COVID-19 individuals won't be hospitalized until around the second week of their symptoms, she said. 

The longer the incubation period, the longer a person is infected - and contagious - but doesn't show symptoms. This means more time grocery shopping, walking around, interacting with others, because you don't feel sick. Health care professionals use this number to decide how long people need to stay away from others during an outbreak.

Fatality rate: Berggren said that while it's hard to determine the fatality rate, many credible sources suggest that it's about five times higher for COVID-19 compared to seasonal flu. 

During the week that ended on April 21, the United States had 10 to 40 times more deaths than the highest week for influenza deaths in the past seven years, according to a study from the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Vaccines and drugs: There is no reliable drug or vaccine that treats COVID-19. Tamiflu, for example, is an antiviral that attacks the flu once it's already in the body, easing symptoms and making severe cases of influenza less likely. It can also sometimes prevent the flu if taken before you're sick. 

No such drug exists for coronavirus. COVID-19 patients are only treated with remdesivir – a drug that decreases mortality – once hospitalized, and there is a limited supply.

"We are not anywhere near the same level of being able to utilize the medication to decrease cases and deaths for COVID-19," Berggren said. "We are already making decisions on who gets the drug remdesivir and who doesn't ... and that has never happened in our lifetime with influenza."

There is also a vaccine for the flu and not one for the coronavirus, she added. 

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