CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Nine months after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic and countries locked down to slow the virus's spread, some continue to characterize the novel coronavirus as just another seasonal flu.
While some COVID-19 and flu symptoms can be similar, and some seem to overcome the virus without much concern, health experts cite a few reasons why the coronavirus is more dangerous than flu.
Reason One: Little Pre-existing Immunity
"Each year the flu modifies and just changes its shape ever so slightly," said Dr. Cameron Wolfe, an infectious disease expert with Duke University School of Medicine. "We have a pretty good memory having seen it the year before. We've never seen this kind of coronavirus."
That fact leads into the second reason COVID-19 and the flu are not comparable.
Reason Two: More Severe Disease
According to doctors, facing a novel enemy, some immune systems go into overdrive, leading to complications.
"You don't know which way your body is going to react," said Dr. Janny Soriano, a hospital medicine doctor in South Carolina.
Soriano says the complications, for some, can be long-lasting.
"A month out, you're having patients coming in with clots. You're having people coming in with bleeding complications. I'm having people clotting and bleeding at the same time," said Dr. Soriano. "Your lungs, your brain, your heart, your kidneys, even the skin becomes damaged."
"(COVID-19 and flu) are not the same and, anyone who claims otherwise, I will walk you through my ICU to see the demise that happens as a result of this," said Dr. Wolfe.
Reason Three: Lack of Good Treatments
"As science further delineates the pathophysiology of what this virus does and how it triggers our immune response... then we may have more therapeutics to blunt the response to prevent it from going into these subsequent complications," said Dr. Soriano.
Nationwide, COVID-19 deaths have topped 300,000 in 11 months, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. That figure exceeds the 267,000 estimated flu deaths the CDC has reported for all the flu seasons combined since 2013.
"COVID has now become the third-leading cause of death this year in our county," said Gibbie Harris, Mecklenburg County's Health Director.
Reason Four: Lack of Vaccine (until now)
Lack of a vaccine to help stave off viral spread is another way COVID-19 differed from the flu, but as of this week, that has changed.
North Carolina's initial shipment totaled roughly 85,000 doses. South Carolina's was nearly 43,000.