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How dangerous is coronavirus? Why Covid-19 is worse than flu and what defines severe case

Since COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus, we’re all still learning about it and desperately trying to work out how to stop it in its tracks. According to the World Health Organisation, it spreads through “droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose when an infected person coughs or sneezes”.

The number of deaths is rising every day, and the illness has already claimed the lives of thousands of people around the world. Understandably people are increasingly worried about coronavirus, and a number of medical experts are speaking out every day to try and explain exactly what’s going on and why.

We’ve laid out all the important facts, including who is at risk, what symptoms you can expect to experience with mild, moderate and severe cases as well as who you can contact to get appropriate treatment to help give you some clarification.

How dangerous is coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation says that approximately 80 per cent of those with the virus recover without needing any special treatment. And only one in six becomes seriously ill – that’s around 15 per cent of cases which are severe, and 5 percent which are critical.

According to a report of a joint World Health Organization-China mission of 25 infectious disease experts held in China late last month, 80 per cent of known cases are mild – which are not dangerous.

There is also a slim chance of being hospitalised with a moderate case, unless the individual is really struggling to catch their breath or are exceptionally dehydrated.

And in severe cases, coronavirus can lead to pneumonia which is life threatening. However, government advisers in the UK believe that the chances of dying from coronavirus is between 0.5 percent and one percent.

Intensive care specialist Professor Hugh Montgomery spoke to Channel 4 about how infectious COVID-19 is compared to the flu. He explained that when one person has flu, they infect an average of 1.3 people. Each of those people can then go on and infect a further 1.3 people each. If this happens ten times, the one person who originally contracted the flu has caused a further 14 people to get it.

But with COVID-19, one person passes it to three people, who would in turn pass it on to another three people.

He said: “Not that doesn’t sound like much of a difference, but each of those three passes it onto another three and that happens at ten layers, I have been responsibly for infecting 59,000 people.”

Image: Mercury

Who is most at risk?

  • Anyone over the age of 70 – regardless to underlying health conditions
  • Anyone under 70 with underlying medical problems like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, and cancer
  • Pregnant women
  • Anyone taking medication that weakens your immune system

Some of the symptoms are similar to ones you would experience with a cold or flu, so it can be difficult to differentiate – see what symptoms there are in a mild, moderate and severe case below.

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of the WHO Health Emergencies Program, said: “[A] mild infection starts normally with a fever, although it may take a couple of days to get a fever.

“You will have some respiratory symptoms; you have some aches and pains. You’ll have a dry cough. This is what the majority of individuals will have.”

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security continues by saying it is “nothing that will make you feel like you need to run to a hospital.”

These symptoms can usually be treated by drinking plenty of fluids, taking pain medication as needed and resting at home, but if they worsen contact your GP.

Symptoms of a moderate case

Dr Amesh Adalja defines a moderate case as coughing, a fever, and a feeling that you can’t get out of bed. But, the shortness of breath can be treated differently depending on the health condition of the patient and their age. Signs of this are dry mouth, decreased urine output, yellow urine, dry skin, a headache and dizziness.

Symptoms of a severe case

Since coronavirus is a respiratory disease – meaning it effect the lungs – it can in severe case cause pneumonia.

Dr Van Kerkhove said that “while pneumonia can often resolve on its own, especially in younger people, in older people and in those with underlying health conditions, pneumonia can be life-threatening or require hospitalization, especially if their immune system is weak.”