Covid-19: Are Coronavirus Infections Less Dangerous Than Flu?

Covid-19: Are Coronavirus Infections Less Dangerous Than Flu?

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Exaggerated risk of coronavirus infections?

Voices are spreading on the Internet, which claim that the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is harmless and no worse than an ordinary flu disease. To this end, more or less conclusive arguments are presented to convince people that there is no pandemic at all. What is the point of the arguments?

Well-known doctors such as Wolfgang Wodarg are among the Corona Kristiker. But some politicians are also behind the statements. For example, the former CDU member of the Bundestag Vera Lengsfeld on Saturday calls on Twitter to sign a petition to end all measures against the corona pandemic. How reliable are the arguments given?

What do the Coroan critics say?

Lengsfeld writes on Twitter: "The current flu wave caused by the Corona Virus Covid19 has been proven to be far less dangerous than other flu waves, which is e.g. can be seen from the number of cases that the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) announces on a daily basis. Accordingly, on March 25, 2020 the number of infected was 31,554, the number of deaths was 149. "

Dangerous half knowledge

However, there are several errors in this statement. On the one hand, the coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 and the resulting disease COVID-19. But apart from that, a pandemic that is about to start is compared to a completed flu wave. At this point in time, no one can know what these numbers will look like in a few months - and what role the protective measures taken play.

With regard to the Spanish flu in 1918 and 1919, however, it was found that isolation measures could reduce the disease and death rate by up to 50 percent. For more information, read the article: Corona pandemic: what we can learn from the Spanish flu.

In addition, the COVID-19 death rates in Germany are very low by international comparison. This is not least due to the fact that Germany has a high level of expertise in intensive care medicine and that all those affected are treated very well. If this reservoir is exhausted, a different picture would result in the death rate. This can be seen, for example, in Italy, where 92,472 confirmed COVID-19 cases result in 10,023 deaths (as of March 29, 2020; source: Johns Hopkins University).

Death rates in Europe are average

An often cited argument by critics is that current death rates in Europe are average and in some countries are even below average. The website “EuroMOMO” is cited as the source, where the overall mortality rates are shown in up to 24 European countries. No effects of the corona pandemic can currently be seen here. But does that really mean that there are no effects?

The operators of the frequently quoted website provide the answer themselves: "In the past few days, EuroMOMO has received many questions about weekly data on all-cause mortality and the possible contribution of COVID-19-related mortality," writes the EuroMomo team. "Some wonder why there is no increased mortality in the reported mortality rates for the countries affected by COVID-19."

Statement from EuroMomo

"The answer is that increased mortality, which can occur primarily at the sub-national level or in smaller focus areas and / or concentrated in smaller age groups, may not be detectable at the national level, even less in the pooled analysis at European level because of the Denominator of the total population is very large. In addition, there is always a delay of several weeks in the registration and reporting of deaths. Therefore, the EuroMOMO mortality figures of the past few weeks have to be interpreted with some caution. "

"Although increased mortality is not immediately apparent in the EuroMOMO numbers, it does not mean that the increased mortality does not occur in some areas or in some age groups, including the mortality associated with COVID-19," said EuroMomo Teams.

Check your sources carefully

In addition, there are numerous videos on YouTube in which serious "experts" spread their own interpretation of the situation. As an example here is Dr. To mention Bodo Schiffsmann, who publishes a video claiming that the renowned New England Journal of Medicine had announced that COVID-19 mortality would be less than 0.1 percent.

The source cited is the editorial “Navigating the Uncharted”. Here, Schiffmann quotes a single sentence of the editorial and evaluates it without the entire context. The sentence reads: “This indicates that the overall clinical outcomes of Covid-19 are more similar to those of severe seasonal flu (with a death rate of approximately 0.1%) or pandemic flu (similar to those of 1957 and 1968) a disease like SARS or MERS, in which the deaths were 9 to 10 percent and 36 percent, respectively. "

Rough estimates

What at first sounds out of context, as if an exact data situation indicates that the morality is below 0.1 percent, becomes clearer if you look at the entire paragraph in the editorial:

The authors write: “Based on a case definition that requires diagnosis of pneumonia, the currently reported death rate is around two percent. Another article reports 1.4 percent mortality in 1099 laboratory-confirmed Covid-19 patients. These patients had a wide range of disease severity. If you assume that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is a multiple of the reported cases, the death rate can be well below 1 percent. ”

With the very benevolent estimate of less than 0.1 percent, more than 90 percent of SARS-CoV-2 infections would have to be asymptomatic - there is no evidence for this. The RKI estimates that based on the current data situation, around every second case is asymptomatic. In addition, the study, to which the editorial is based, shows that, for example, heart disease and hypertension patients are at increased risk. This group alone makes up over 20 million people in Germany. You can find more information on this in the article: COVID-19: The risk increases in heart patients.

Do you have to be afraid of COVID-19?

It is not about being afraid or wanting to spread fear, but rather finding a way in which as many people as possible can get through the crisis unscathed. Much is still unclear and even if the risk to the individual does not appear to be very high, complete downplaying is dangerous because it is a new virus that is highly contagious and for which, unlike the flu, there are no basic immunities or vaccinations.

The German Ethics Council has published a recommendation that represents the interests of both those in need of protection and the working population. Accordingly, the crisis should primarily be tackled with the basic principles of solidarity and responsibility. You can find out more about the recommendations of the German Ethics Council in the article: Ethics Council recommendation: This is how we can overcome the corona crisis together! (vb)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Graduate editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • EuroMomo: Mortality monitoring in Europe (accessed: March 29, 2020),
  • Johns Hopkins University: Coronavirus COVID-19 Global Cases by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) (accessed: March 29, 2020),
  • Anthony S. Fauci, H. Clifford Lane, Robert R. Redfield: Covid-19 - Navigating the Uncharted; in: New England Journal of Medicine, 2020,
  • Shaobo Shi, Mu Qin, Bo Shen, et al: Association of Cardiac Injury With Mortality in Hospitalized Patients With COVID-19 in Wuhan, China; in: JAMA Cardiology, 2020,

Video: The Spanish flu: the biggest pandemic in modern history (July 2022).


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