Latest Department of Health mythbuster on Covid-19 published

Date published: 18 December 2020

In an ongoing series, we are setting the facts straight in relation to bogus claims made about this pandemic.
The latest mythbuster sets out the major differences between Covid-19 and winter flu.

Graphic for news update

Mythbuster: Is Covid-19 similar to winter flu?

This is one of the biggest myths of the pandemic.

There are in reality very significant differences between Coronavirus and winter flu. Underestimating Covid-19 is the last thing any of us should be doing.

The consequences of Covid-19 are significantly greater than flu in terms of morbidity, mortality and pressures on our health service.

This is evident in terms of long-term impacts on patients recovering from the virus.

The UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) is researching the prevalence of long Covid symptoms and Covid-19 complications.

ONS research to date indicates that patients in hospital with Covid-19 have experienced elevated rates of metabolic, cardiovascular, kidney and liver disease compared with patients of similar demographic and clinical profiles over the same period. Rates of diabetes and cardiovascular disease were particularly pronounced.

Another crucial difference between flu and Covid is that effective mass population vaccination has been available for winter flu for many years. Flu can still kill and has been responsible for major pandemics in the past. But the flu vaccine has helped protect citizens and society from it to a major degree.

The contrast with Covid-19 is obvious. While the Covid-19 vaccination programme has just started, it will inevitably take many months to complete. Realistically, we are looking at the middle of next year before this can be fully achieved. Progress will depend on the availability of vaccine supplies. The timescale for the approval of further vaccines will be an important factor in the wider roll-out of the programme.

That is why we have to maintain our guard and follow public health advice – reducing our contacts with each other, keeping our distancing from others, wearing a face covering and washing our hands.

Be aware of particularly risky settings – crowded indoor places with poor ventilation where social distancing is difficult or impossible to maintain.

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