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A quick guide to help you understand, prevent and deal with coronavirus (COVID-19)

Is the coronavirus like the flu? They both cause respiratory disease, but there are important differences to know that can help you both prevent the spread and to know when you need to go to the doctor.

First, they both may seem alike at the beginning, according to the World Health Organization. They both cause respiratory disease. And both are transmitted by having contact with someone or by breathing in droplets.

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Both the flu and the new coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, can be prevented by doing things like washing your hands and coughing into your elbow or a tissue that you throw away immediately.

But here are some of the differences.

For the flu, you can be exposed and then begin feeling ill within three days. For the coronavirus, that time is longer, up to an estimated five to six days.

For the flu, public health officials say children are important drivers of the influenza virus in the community. For COVID-19, initial research says that children get the illness from adults rather than the other way around.

Also, current information shows that 80% of COVID-19 infections are mild or have no symptoms. Fifteen percent of infections are severe, where a person would require oxygen. Five percent of cases, though, are critical infections that would require ventilation.

The World Health Organization says that the percentage of severe and critical cases are higher than what you’d find among those people with the flu.

Also, the mortality rates for COVID-19 right now appears higher than for the flu. For COVID-19, it’s 3%-4%. For the seasonal flu, it’s usually well below 0.1%, says the World Health Organization. However, the agency adds, the mortality rate “is to a large extent determined by access to and quality of health care.”

Another important difference is that there is not a licensed COVID-19 vaccine available anywhere in the world. There are clinical trials underway, but none have been approved as of March 17, 2020. There are, however, vaccines available for the flu.

Editor’s note: Information compiled from resources available from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of March 17, 2020.


Keep up with developments and find out more

Daily status updates on the number of cases of coronavirus in North Carolina, plus official declarations and breaking news

North Carolina coronavirus resource guide where you can find information and direct links to schools, churches, health care providers, travel advisories and more


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Staff Reports

This release, story or event was developed through multiple sources and/or is from the staff of Carolina Public Press.

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