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COVID-19: How Different Is It Compared to the Flu?

It’s been over one year since the first reported outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan China. According to the reported statistics, there have now been over 130 million cases worldwide at the time of writing (5 April 2021). But can it be compared to the flu?

Here’s what we do know:

  • Underlying health conditions and weaker immune systems play a part in how serious the symptoms are.
  • People aged 85 and over are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19.
  • Those who are overweight have an increased risk of death compared to a normal weight.
  • According to the CDC’s ‘best estimate’ the infection fatality risk rate for COVID-19 is less than 1% for the average person.

COVID-19 is often described as the new flu,  let’s look at the similarities and differences between them.

Similarities between COVID19 and the notorious Spanish flu

These are some of the most notable similarities between the novel coronavirus and one of the more serious influenzas known as the Spanish flu.

  • Both were new for their time.

In the US, the Spanish flu was discovered by military personnel and caused a worldwide pandemic back in 1918/1919.

  • Both mutated very quickly to become less deadly.

A virus’s main task is to find a host, make more copies of itself to spread to a new host. If the virus kills the host too quickly, it doesn’t have a chance to spread. So, by natural selection the flu became less deadly, enabling it to spread further.

  • For both viruses, the person’s immune system was the best defence for safety.

There is no cure for the flu or for COVID-19. As the facts show, those with a lower immune system seem to have more severe symptoms.

While there are several similarities to the Spanish flu pandemic, not enough time has passed to really let us know how similar the Spanish flu is to the novel coronavirus. Everything thus far is identical; however, the data is not.

Specifically, 1/3 of the world’s population were affected by the Spanish flu. With today’s world population the total number of deaths would be 50-100 million people!

At the time of writing this the number of world deaths from COVID-19 is reported at just over 1 million. Hardly a mirror of the Spanish flu…


Differences between COVID-19 compared to the flu

  • With the flu, you have the ability to transmit the virus up to 24 hrs prior to symptoms. With COVID-19 it could be as high as 4 days.


People are describing our current times as the “New Normal”. Whether you believe this to be true or not, one thing is for sure – immunity is the greatest prevention at the moment.

In the world of multiple infectious diseases that attack the immune system all at one time, building resistance to incoming viruses and pathogens has never been more important.

Are vaccines the way of the future?

Flu vaccines have been made for over 60 years and it is still a work in progress. Last year, the effectiveness rate of the flu vaccine stood at just 29%.

Typical Vaccine Effectiveness statistics.

The flu vaccine is considered very successful if it has a 60% effectiveness rate.

What are the results? Here is the data from the past 5 years, taken from the CDC website.

2014-2015: 19% vaccine effectiveness

2015-2016: 48% vaccine effectiveness

2016-2017: 40% vaccine effectiveness

2017-2018: 38% vaccine effectiveness

2018-2020: 29% vaccine effectiveness

As you can see from the data, vaccine effectiveness has varied over the years and has not reached the 60% effectiveness of a what’s considered a successful flu vaccine.

Will a COVID-19 vaccination have any chance of being effective in its first year of trying to get it right?

Only time will tell…

Indirect effects of COVID-19

Does being isolated make you sick?

It’s been shown that lonely people can develop weakened immune systems. This makes them more susceptible to illness; have more sensitivity to physical pain, and suffer more inflammation, according to two new related studies.

“Loneliness can be stressful, and many studies document the physical toll that takes,” says Geoff Melcher, Vice President at East Park Research.

“Usually, we think of weakened immune systems in people who have chronic illnesses, and the very old and very young. Loneliness is just as dangerous.”

Researchers from Ohio State studied a group of breast cancer survivors and a group of overweight, middle-aged people, all of whom were otherwise healthy. Their social activity was evaluated using the UCLA Loneliness Scale, and they submitted to stress tests and blood tests.

The loneliest in the two groups had more inflammation when they underwent stress tests, more pain, and more reactivation of latent viruses – a sign of a weakened immune system.

Lonely people really need to look for ways to engage socially, but the lockdown restrictions have made this increasingly hard. So, what can you do?


Strengthening your immune system naturally

As we have covered, your immune system is key to contending with coronavirus or the flu. Doing what you can to strengthen your body’s ability to fight incoming viruses will have a positive impact on how your body will respond.

Here are a few tips to help strengthen your immune system naturally:

  • Get plenty of rest

Sleep and your immune system have a close connection. When we are unwell, the body wants to go into rest and repair mode to recover. If you get plenty of sleep already, your body is able to produce more antibodies against any viruses that may be trying to set up camp.

  • Take anti-viral supplements

Nature has many remedies that work well for viruses. The most powerful is olive leaf extract. Olive leaves contain a potent chemical called oleuropein which contains antibacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Taking high-quality olive leaf extract helps to support and strengthen your immune system through the stressful period.

  • Stay social

Do what you can to socialize safely. Simply being in the company of people you love has a tremendous effect on our own wellbeing. Social distancing may have become normal for the time being, but for our mental and physical health, and those of our loved ones, we must do what we can to stay social and focus on the good things.



Just like influenza, COVID-19 continues to change and mutate. As we have seen with the flu, that does not necessarily mean it will become more deadly as time passes.

However, with that said, even the flu continues to cause hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year, despite the flu vaccine.

Strengthening your immune system naturally really is the best way to prevent serious side effects from viruses.


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