May 28, 2020

MediaWise Rating: Mostly Legit

According to this post being shared on Facebook, COVID-19 is more dangerous than the average flu. We’re about to get into the scientific nitty-gritty, so let’s get to dissecting it.

What is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a family of viruses that may cause serious illness in animals or humans. They range from common colds to the SARS virus. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, has “19” in the name because it was discovered in 2019.

Influenza, or what we call “the flu,” is actually a part of a different group of viruses. The flu and COVID-19 are different “species” but can present similar symptoms.

COVID-19 is spread through airborne droplets — when someone coughs and exhales droplets in the air that someone breathes in. These droplets can also land on objects and infect someone when they touch their face. This is different from the flu — which, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, spreads directly through coughing toward someone.  This makes COVID-19 more spreadable and, therefore, more dangerous.

The WHO and the CDC are both reputable government agencies, so they are a reliable source of this information.

How infectious is it?

The third claim in the post discusses how virulent COVID-19 is. Virulence describes the ability of an infection to produce disease. Basically, it’s how likely you are to get symptoms if you inhale droplets of a virus.

Because COVID-19 is so new, we don’t really have any data to compare to the flu to see whether it takes more or less of it to produce extreme reactions. However, we do know that one of the dangerous aspects of it is that it has a longer incubation period than the flu. An incubation period is the length of time between when someone becomes infected and when they show symptoms. You can be contagious from the moment you get infected, but might not start taking precautions until you see symptoms — causing the virus to spread more undetected.

It’s still being researched, but experts generally believe COVID-19’s incubation period to be around two weeks. Compare that to the flu, which is between one and four days.

How dangerous is it?

According to the CDC, the average flu case lasts between three and seven days, and novel coronavirus cases last between five and eight days. While COVID-19 cases on average are longer, it’s not that much longer, and varies by the age and preexisting conditions of the infected person.

The last claim in the original post is about death rates. As of May 17, globally, there were 4,529,027 cases and 307,565 deaths attributed to COVID-19 — a death rate of 6.7% The CDC’s website estimates that influenza has caused between 9 million and 45 million infections and 12,000 to 61,000 deaths annually since 2010 — about a 0.13% death rate. Again, the difference is mainly due to the lack of a vaccine for this strain of coronavirus.


After looking at reliable data from the WHO and CDC, we rate this Facebook post as Mostly Legit. Make sure to verify all information you see on social media with local and federal health officials before taking anything as fact and sharing it online.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Tags: ,

More News

Back to News