The Flu, COVID-19 and what the numbers mean

Dr. Jacob Nichols, infectious disease specialist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Hundreds of people have lined up for drive-through screening at UMC.

But many have been turned away after testing positive for the flu instead.

Dr. Jacob Nichols, an infectious disease specialist at the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center, helps us understand the difference. He says, “One of the things we know with influenza, it seems to have a sudden onset with fever, cough, muscle aches, things like that. Coronavirus, we do see high fevers, as well and cough are the most predominant symptoms. But the cough seems to develop over several days as well as the shortness of breath rather than the sudden onset we see with the flu.”

So, how often is COVID-19 critical or even deadly? Dr. Nichols says in general, “For about 80% of people, they’ll have mild cases. For another 15%, they’ll have moderate to severe that may require hospitalization. Probably around 5%, they have critical cases and need intubation or ventilation requirement and support with breathing, things like that.”

But Dr. Nichols says when you hear that a person is hospitalized with COVID-19, that doesn’t mean they are going to get worse. “Some people get hospitalized, maybe they just need supplemental oxygen for a couple of days or they’re having really high fever, needing Tylenol or just being watched more closely. It’s a potential and that’s why they do get hospitalized so we can watch them. But once they’re stable, they’re ok to go home.”

As far as the mortality rate, he is hopeful that we can keep the numbers down by following social distancing and not overwhelming our hospitals. He says, “I think if you’re looking in a setting where you have all the resources that are needed, including ventilators, personal protective equipment for staff, then hopefully the mortality rate will be around 1 percent or maybe even lower once we go back and see how many people were truly infected with this, just never even required testing or didn’t become severe enough to end up in the hospital.”

Dr. Nichols says it is unfortunate that the COVID-19 mortality rate was skewed in Seattle by the high number of deaths in one nursing home. And health officials are still watching New York to see if its death rate will be higher than the national average of 1.2 percent because some people there continue to not follow the rules.

So, what is his prediction for the South Plains? He says it all depends on whether people here take this seriously and follow social distancing and wash their hands as frequently as they can with soap and water.

Copyright 2020 KCBD. All rights reserved.