Questions & Answers
Is the novel coronavirus comparable to SARS or to the seasonal flu?
No. The novel coronavirus, detected in China in 2019, that causes COVID-19 is closely related genetically to the SARS-CoV-1 virus that caused the outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003, but the diseases they cause are quite different.
SARS emerged at the end of 2002, also in China, and was more deadly but much less infectious than the novel coronavirus. There have been no outbreaks of SARS anywhere in the world since 2003.
While the viruses that cause both COVID-19 and seasonal influenza are transmitted from person-to-person and may cause similar symptoms, the two viruses are very different and do not behave in the same way.
Despite the relatively low mortality rate for seasonal influenza, many people die from the disease due to the large number of people who contract it each year. The concern about COVID-19 is that, unlike influenza, there is no vaccine and no specific treatment for the disease. It also appears to be more transmissible than seasonal influenza. As it is a new virus, nobody has prior immunity, which means that the entire human population is potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection.