Covid-19 is not a ‘simple flu’

27 March 2023
What was claimed

The UK government knew Covid-19 was a simple flu.

Our verdict

This is false. Flu and Covid-19 infections do share some similar characteristics, but they are not the same virus.

A Facebook post featuring a video calling on the police to investigate the government over Covid-19 and the Covid-19 vaccines includes a caption which falsely claims the virus is “a simple flu”.

The caption says, in part: “They knew the pandemic was a big experiment on controlling the masses and that being as they knew it was a simple flu, they didn't need to bother social distancing. Remember, if it was that contagious and deadly, why would they have risked their own lives unless they knew of course.”

Covid-19 is not the same as influenza, and there’s no evidence that the Covid-19 pandemic was an “experiment on controlling the masses”, or that authorities “knew” that social distancing was unnecessary.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, we’ve seen various posts on social media suggesting that Covid-19 is actually the flu, or that the virus is no more deadly than influenza.

Health misinformation can cause direct damage to people’s physical health, create distrust of medical professionals, and undermine public health messaging.

Flu and Covid-19 infections do share some similar characteristics, and can have similar symptoms. Both viruses are respiratory diseases, can spread in similar ways, and some of the same groups are at higher risk of severe illness from both diseases.

But, as we’ve previously explained, flu and Covid-19 are not caused by the same pathogen. Covid-19 is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, and ‘flu’ is caused by different types of influenza virus

Many scientists have isolated the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease and determined its entire genetic makeup by sequencing its genome.

Analysis published in May 2022 by the Office for National Statistics reported that: “[Covid-19] has been the underlying cause of death in more than four times as many deaths as flu and pneumonia in England and Wales since March 2020. Annually, deaths due to COVID-19 have been higher than those due to flu and pneumonia in any year since 1929.”

This analysis looked at Covid-19 deaths between March 2020 and April 2022, and it’s worth noting that following the vaccination programme and the arrival of the milder Omicron variant, the disease has become much less likely to be fatal than during the first years of the pandemic.

Image courtesy of CDC

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