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COVID-19

No, coronavirus isn’t the same as the flu

Aches and pains, sore throat, fever -- although they may feel similar to those suffering from their symptoms, the novel coronavirus is not the same as the seasonal flu, experts have stressed. (Paywall Free)

No, coronavirus isn't the same as the flu
Photo: AFP

Mortality

COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, proves deadly in around 3.5 percent of confirmed cases.

While this is not the same as its mortality rate, given many people may be infected but not realise it, it is significantly higher than seasonal flu, which typically kills 0.1 percent of patients.

“There is still considerable uncertainty around the fatality rates of COVID-19 and it likely varies depending on the quality of local healthcare,” said Francois Balloux, Professor of Computational Systems Biology at University College London.

“That said, it is around two percent on average, which is about 20 times higher than for the seasonal flu lineages currently in circulation.”

Serious cases

But the true danger of coronavirus is unlikely to be the death toll. 

Experts say health systems could easily become overwhelmed by the number of cases requiring hospitalisation — and, often ventilation to support breathing.  

An analysis of 45,000 confirmed cases in China, where the epidemic originated, show that the vast majority of deaths were among the elderly (14.8 percent mortality among over 80s).

But another Chinese study showed that 41 percent of serious cases occurred among under 50s, compared with 27 percent among over 65s.

“It's true that if you're older you're at greater risk, but serious cases can also happen in relatively young people with no prior conditions,” said French deputy health minister Jerome Salomon.

Contagiousness 

Disease experts estimate that each COVID-19 sufferer infects between two to 3 others.

That's a reproduction rate up to twice as high as seasonal flu, which typically infects 1.3 new people for each patient.

Vaccine/treatment 

Salomon said that humans have lived with influenza for more than 100 years.

“We've studied it closely,” he said. “This new virus resembles the flu in terms of physical symptoms but there are huge differences.”

Number one is the lack of a vaccine against COVID-19, or even any treatment shown to be consistently effective. 

While some trials have shown promise delivering anti-retroviral drugs to serious cases, as well as some experimental therapies, their sample sizes are too small to roll out to the general population.

Hundreds of researchers around the world are working frantically to find a COVID-19 vaccine, but the development process takes months and is likely too late for the current outbreak.

Even if a vaccine magically appeared, getting everyone access it to it is no small order. Health authorities regularly complain that not enough people receive the flu vaccine to guarantee “herd immunity”. 

Similarities

But the new virus does share some characteristics with flu, notably the measures each one of us can personally take to slow the infection rate:

Avoid shaking hands, frequently wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face and wear a mask if you are sick.

Such actions can limit new infections just as they can with the flu, gastro illnesses and other infectious diseases.

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HEALTH

GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

The number of those in Norway without a GP is much higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health suggest, according to a new survey among doctors.

GP shortage in Norway much larger than previous estimates indicate

As many as 235,000 in Norway lack a GP, a number far higher than previous estimates from the Norwegian Directorate of Health, according to a report from broadcaster TV2

Previous figures from the Norwegian Directorate of Health had the number of those without a doctor at around 175,000. 

“The GP crisis is now completely out of control. Today, every 24th citizen in Norway lacks a GP,” Nils Kristian Klev, head of the Association for General Practitioners, told TV2

The figures reported by TV2 come from a survey carried out by the GP association that more than 75 percent of general practitioners in the country responded to.

In a previous survey run by The Local, foreign residents in Norway highlighted that trouble getting an appointment or not being assigned a GP was one of their biggest criticisms of the Norwegian healthcare system, which they rated favourably overall. 

READ MORE: What do foreigners think of the Norwegian healthcare system?

“The GP crisis is very real, and therefore the government has promised that we will come up with powerful measures in the 2023 budget,” Minister of Health Ingvild Kjerkol said of the survey’s results to TV2. 

Norway’s government announced an expert committee review into the current GP system to tackle a ‘crisis’ within the current model in August.

The objective of the expert committee will be to provide specific recommendations on how the GP system can be improved so that all residents have a permanent GP, in addition to finding a sustainable model, the government said in August. 

One flaw with the current system in the eyes of the medical association is the high number of people on GP’s patient lists. 

“The GPs must have fewer patients on their lists in order for there to be livable working conditions. It will also lead to fewer doctors wanting to quit and more newly qualified doctors wanting to work as GPs,” Klev said. 

To cut down the number of patients on GP’s lists, Klev says the government would need to stump around 2.3 billion kroner to try and recruit around 1,000 new GPs. 

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