Sample Research Paper on Health: The Difference Between Influenza and Covid-19

Research PaperHealth
Jan 10, 2022

Research papers are among the most common types of written projects assigned to students. The hallmark of a research paper is its presentation of a thesis statement. Using reliable information from scholarly sources and sound reasoning, the paper advances and defends the main claim. This sample research paper explains the similarities and differences between COVID-19 and influenza.

Since its emergence in late 2019 in the city of Wuhan in China, the current coronavirus pandemic has swept through the globe. Commonly known as COVID-19, the pandemic at the latest count has infected over 300 million people around the world and has claimed the lives of almost 6 million people (Ritchie et al., 2021). Indeed, this health crisis has become this era’s watershed moment, with many countries and societies mobilizing massive amounts of resources to curb transmission rates and raise awareness of the disease. But despite all efforts by public and private bodies to inform the public, many remain unaware of what exactly COVID is and how it differs from other respiratory conditions. In particular, many tend to confuse COVID with influenza, especially since the two have remarkable similarities. What is COVID and how is it similar or different from influenza? While COVID and influenza are primarily respiratory diseases and can be fatal to vulnerable populations, the two differ in terms of causative agent and effect current impact on society.

Causative Agent

The most crucial difference between COVID and influenza is the causative agent. In infectious diseases, causative agent refers to the microorganism or pathogen that causes the illness. Both COVID and influenza are caused by viruses. But the types of viruses differ. The exact definition of the virus is elusive, as it cannot replicate itself to qualify as a living organism but it is capable of altering its host’s chemical and biological functions (Villareal, 2008). Influenza is caused by the influenza virus. There are three main types of influenza virus that can cause flu in humans. Types A and B are the most common cause of illness in humans and are responsible for causing widespread outbreaks or epidemics. Type C, on the other hand, causes much milder cases of flu and is not known to cause epidemics. Note, however, that both type A and type B have subtypes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2021a). For example, influenza virus subtype H1N1 is believed to be responsible for the  Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 that claimed the lives of 50-100 million people (Schwartz, 2018). On other hand, COVID-19 is caused by a coronavirus. In particular, COVID-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2. This coronavirus is part of the coronaviridae, a family of coronaviruses that includes other types of coronavirus that cause illnesses such as the common cold, MERS or Middle East respiratory syndrome, and SARS or severe acute respiratory syndrome. By far, SARS-CoV is the seventh coronavirus discovered to be capable of causing infection in humans (CDC 2021b; Syed, 2020).

Transmission, Incubation, and Symptoms

Apart from being caused by viruses, COVID-19 and influenza are both primarily respiratory diseases. Naturally, their modes of transmission and clinical manifestations tend to have similarities. Flu is primarily spread through droplet transmission, which occurs when secretions from the mouth or nose are spread by way of sneezing, coughing, and talking. There is also evidence that the flu can be spread by fomites, which are inanimate objects which surfaces contain infected secretions. The incubation period of flu ranges from two to four days. The incubation period refers to the period between contracting the virus and showing initial symptoms (Keilman, 2019). Meanwhile, aerosolized secretions may remain suspended in the air for a longer period of time, thus making them airborne. Fomites are also considered as a possible route, although cases arising from this mode are fewer. The incubation period for COVID ranges between 2 and 14 days (McAloon et al., 2020; Karia et al., 2020).

Some of the most common symptoms of flu include fever, chills, fatigue or tiredness, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle ache, and cold and clogged nose among others. Influenza typically lasts between 5 and 7 days and eventually resolves (Keilman, 2019). On the other hand, COVID-19 is passed on through airborne and droplet transmission. For example, respiratory droplets may be spread when someone sneezes, coughs, or talks. Some of the most common symptoms of COVID include fever, cough, tiredness, loss of smell and or taste, muscle ache, sore throat, diarrhea, and even skin rashes (Struyf et al., 2021). However, with the emergence of new variants, the initially identified symptoms no longer always apply. For instance, loss of smell and taste are very common in earlier variants of the virus, but these are not as common among cases caused by the delta and omicron variants (Tin, 2022). COVID usually lasts for 5 to 6 days, although it is not uncommon for it to last for a week or more. Moreover, there are cases known as long COVID in which patients continue to experience symptoms months after initial infection (Struyf et al., 2021).

Despite their similarities, note that COVID is deadlier. In one cohort study published in The Lancet, researchers found that the mortality rate among patients hospitalized with COVID was substantially higher than those hospitalized with flu: 16.9% died from COVID as opposed to just 5.8% for flu (Piroth et al., 2021). Note, though, that the figure for COVID was calculated before the emergence of vaccines. The mortality rate now is lower if the patient has received vaccination. Furthermore, the mortality rate is far lower among patients whose symptoms do not require hospitalization. This rate is also mediated by other factors such as access to healthcare. Some countries, for instance, have mortality rates as low as 1% while others have as high as 28.9% (Hasan et al., 2021).

Treatment and Prevention

Because COVID and influenza are both caused by viruses, there are specific medications that can directly fight the viruses. Instead, both conditions are treated by focusing on alleviating symptoms and preventing further spread in the population. For example, patients diagnosed with flu or COVID often experience fever. As such, they are encouraged to take antipyretics such as paracetamol (brand name Tylenol) and other similar drugs. Furthermore, patients who suffer complications such as pneumonia due to the proliferation of bacteria in the lungs are treated with antibiotics. Supportive measures are also done such as maintaining adequate hydration, providing nutrition, and promoting rest (Piroth et al., 2021; Keilman, 2019). There have also been some developments in treating COVID. Because of the catastrophic  impacts of the pandemic on the worldwide economy and its perceived  long-term implications for human activity , many private and public groups have sought to develop new drugs. For example, studies involving the antiviral drug molnupiravir are yielding promising results (Pilla, 2022).

The key to addressing the risks of both influenza and COVID is prevention, which is done both through vaccination and the observation of infection control measures. Firstly, there are vaccines that help lessen the severity of the illness. These vaccines stimulate the production of antibodies, thus allowing the body to fight the virus in the event of an actual infection. When COVID emerged in late 2019, there were no vaccines available yet because the virus was a novel one. In other words, it was the first time humans became infected with it. New  vaccines against COVID were developed by pharmaceutical companies and governments in just a year, and now the effectiveness of COVID vaccines have been proven: they are capable of lessening the severity, thus lowering the risk of hospitalization and mortality. But because the virus that causes COVID features rapid mutations that can lower the effectiveness of vaccines, researchers expect that COVID vaccines will become like influenza vaccines. That is, they will need to be continually updated for them to be able to keep up with the changes in the virus (Piroth et al., 2021).

Apart from vaccines, infection control measures are also essential in curbing the spread of the virus. Transmission of both flu and COVID can be prevented by wearing well-fitted medical masks, maintaining distance between individuals, avoiding social gatherings, isolating when symptoms appear, and quarantining groups when outbreaks occur. These measures, however, have become topics of intense debate and protests, with many seeing mandates on vaccines, masks, and social gatherings as assaults to basic rights and freedoms. But researchers believe that many people’s refusal to observe these measures is hampering recovery from the pandemic (Latkin et al., 2021).

Conclusion

COVID-19 and influenza are two diseases that continue to infect people. But while influenza has been a health issue faced by humans for centuries, COVID is a new disease that emerged just two years ago. The differences between these two diseases are not always clear, and many people continue to confuse one with the other. Although both conditions are caused by a virus and have similar clinical presentations, they are caused by different viruses. Moreover, COVID has proven to be a more dangerous disease due to a higher risk of hospitalization and death. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. As the world enters its third year in this coronavirus pandemic, the importance of raising awareness regarding these conditions and how they can be prevented is clearer than ever.

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References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021a). Types of influenza viruses. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/viruses/types.htm

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021b). Human coronavirus types. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/types.html

Hasan, M. N., Haider, N., Stigler, F. L., Khan, R. A., McCoy, D., Zumla, A., Kock, R. A., & Uddin, M. J. (2020). The global case-fatality rate of COVID-19 has been declining since May 2020. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 104(6), 2176-2184. https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.20-1496

Karia, R., Gupta, I., Khandait, H., Yadav, A., & Yadav, A. (2020). COVID-19 and its modes of transmission. SN Comprehensive Clinical Medicine, 2, 1798-1801. https://doi.org/10.1007/s42399-020-00498-4

Keilman, L. J. (2019). Seasonal influenza (flu). Nursing Clinics, 54(2), 227-243. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cnur.2019.02.009

Latkin, C. A., Dayton, L., Yi, G., Colon, B., & Kong, X. (2021). Mask usage, social distancing, racial, and gender correlates of COVID-19 vaccine intentions among adults in the US. PLOS One, 16(2), e0246970. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0246970

McAloon, C., Collins, A., Barber, A., Byrne, A. W., Butler, F., Casey, M., Griffin, J., Lane, E., McEvoy, D., Wall, P., Green, M., O’Grady, L., & More, S. J. (2021). Incubation period of COVID-19: a rapid systematic review and meta-analysis of observational research. BMJ Open, 10(8). doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-039652

Pilla, V. (2022, January 7). Merck says no safety concerns observed in molnupiravir phase-3 trial, shared relevant data with DCGI. Economic Times. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/industry/healthcare/biotech/pharmaceuticals/merck-says-no-safety-concerns-observed-in-molnupiravir-phase-3-trial-shared-relevant-data-with-dcgi/articleshow/88749918.cms

Piroth, L., Cottenet, J., Mariet, A. S., Bonniaud, P., Blot, M., Tubert-Bitter, P., & Quantin, C. (2021). Comparison of the characteristics, morbidity, and mortality of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza: a nationwide, population-based retrospective cohort study. The Lancet, 9(3), 251-259. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(20)30527-0

Ritchie, H., Mathieu, E., Rodes-Guirao, L., Appel, C., Giattino, C., Ortiz-Ospina, E., Hasell, J., MacDonald, B., Beltekian, D., Dattani, S., & Roser, M., (2022). Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) – The data. University of Oxford. https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-data

Schwartz, J. L. (2018). The Spanish flu, epidemics, and the turn to biomedical responses. American Journal of Public Health, 108, 1455-1458. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2018.304581

Struyf, T., Deeks, J. J., Dinnes, J., Takwoingi, Y., Davenport, C., Leeflang, M. M. G. , Spijker, R., Hooft, L., Emperador, D., Domen, J., Horn, S. R. A., & Van den Bruel, A. (2021). Signs and symptoms to determine if a patient presenting in primary care or hospital outpatient settings has COVID‐19. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2(CD013665). DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD013665.pub2

Syed, A. (2020). Coronavirus: A mini-review. International Journal of Current Research in Medical Sciences, 6(1), 8-10.

Tin, A. (2022, January 7). COVID-19 symptoms and the Omicron variant: What the latest studies show. CBS News. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/covid-omicron-variant-symptoms-studies/

Villareal, L. P. (2008, August 8). Are viruses alive? Scientific American. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/are-viruses-alive-2004/

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