Is Influenza Virus More Dangerous than COVID-19 and Do Asymptomatic Patients Actually Exist?

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On October 28, Facebook user Gocha Kartveli published a critical post related to the coronavirus, where he quotes doctor Ramaz Gagnidze as saying that COVID-19 is less lethal than influenza virus, statistical data on increased COVID-19 cases are not reliable and asymptomatic patients do not actually exist.

According to CrowdTangle, the content discovery platform, Gocha Kartveli’s post was shared in 15 Facebook groups. As of October 6, it had a total of 195 shares.

 

The information provided in Gocha Kartveli’s post regarding COVID-19 lethality and asymptomatic patients is not true, whereas the claims about increased cases are conspiratorial. Myth Detector has reached out to doctor Archil Marshania for comments.   

  • COVID-19 death rates compared to seasonal influenza virus

There have been some speculations circulating that COVID-19 is less dangerous and lethal than seasonal influenza virus. Commenting on this issue, doctor Archil Marshania said that this comparison is an incorrect perception of danger, because COVID-19 is not an influenza virus and it is much severe than the latter. As for the lethality, he clarifies that COVID-19 lethality is not calculated so easily and the data may vary by age groups in various countries. It means that statistical data are different not only among various age groups in one country, but also among various countries. So, there are no universal data; numbers are constantly changing and the rates of death from various diseases may either decrease or increase. The latest tendency shows reduction in mortality rates. Marshania, however, noted that it is unknown so far whether getting seasonal influenza and COVID-19 at the same time will further increase death rates.

Although there are no accurate and universal data on COVID-19 fatality rates, the doctor clarifies that mortality for COVID-19 is 0.5% and higher in different countries, and for seasonal influenza, mortality is usually well below 0.1%, meaning that the coronavirus is much lethal than seasonal influenza. The World Health Organization (WHO) also provides identical information on the issue, noting that mortality is to a large extent determined by access to and quality of health care. According to the WHO, most estimates of fatality ratios have been based on cases detected through surveillance and calculated using crude methods, giving rise to widely variable estimates of case fatality rates by country – from less than 0.1% to over 25%. However, as of October 6, the average mortality rates constituted 2.9% globally. Since the COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing pandemic, figures are constantly changing, and additional testing is being carried out to detect evidence of exposure to a pathogen and estimate the true number of infected individuals. Many such surveys are currently being undertaken worldwide and some have thus far suggested substantial under-ascertainment of cases, with estimates of infection fatality ratio converging at approximately 0.5 – 1% (at least five-fold more than influenza virus fatality rate).

Archil Marshania also spoke about the coronavirus classification. He noted that it does not represent an influenza virus, adding that the group of coronaviruses is a separate, large group, also involving the novel coronavirus, COVID-19. Marshania also focused on the key problems of the coronavirus outbreak – rapid spread of the infection and overloaded health care systems.

“Although mortality is not the key problem of the novel coronavirus, its mortality is five-fold higher than the influenza estimate. So, it is much severe infection that influenza. Let me emphasize here that it is not correct to compare mortality rates, because the major problem of COVID-19 is its rapid spread and overloaded health care systems, and only afterwards, mortality rates and various underlying medical conditions. In both cases, it is much severe infection than influenza and it is not the same as influenza,” Archil Marshania said.

  • Asymptomatic patients and risks of virus transmission by them 

Besides the above-mentioned conspiracy theories or various types of groundless reports, there is an opinion that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients do not actually exist, or if patients are asymptomatic, as some sources claim, they cannot infect others.

Archil Marshania clarifies regarding this issue that asymptomatic patients do exist. As for the risks of virus transmission by them, there is no accurate information about this issue and a lot of questions are still arising. Hence, it is not expedient to claim something for sure. On the one hand, patients with clinical symptoms represent the major source of virus spread. Moreover, when we talk about asymptomatic patients, it is important to differ two types of asymptomatic carriers of coronavirus disease:

 

  1. Pre-symptomatic patients – who have the infection but do not have any symptoms yet
  2. Asymptomatic patients – who have the infection but no symptoms and will not develop them later.

Marshania noted that pre-symptomatic patients may spread the infection before having symptoms. As for asymptomatic patients, it is impossible to claim something for sure and there are a lot of question marks. Transmission from asymptomatic carriers to others is not completely studied and such cases are very rare. The World Health Organization claims the same. It notes that asymptomatically infected individuals are much less likely to transmit the virus than those who develop symptoms. However, it is impossible to claim whether such people can infect others due to lack of statistical data and it requires comprehensive studies. It is also difficult to clarify a share of asymptomatic patients, as this figure varies by countries. Archil Marshania said that asymptomatic COVID-19 cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship constituted 18%. A share of asymptomatic patients in one of Italian villages was 50%. According to the World Health Organization, data to date suggest that 80% of infections are mild or asymptomatic. It, however, does not differentiate between mild and asymptomatic cases. According to the study released by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, the proportion of positive cases that remained asymptomatic was estimated at 16%.

  • Rapid growth of COVID-19 positive cases in Georgia in September and its provoking factors

Number of COVID-19 positive cases has rapidly increased in Georgia in September. This factor has promoted the emergence of conspiratorial allegations that certain forces are interested in manipulating with statistics and that the statistical data do not reflect the reality.

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Source: Worldometers

Commenting on the recent growth of coronavirus instances, Archil Marshania said that it has no specific reason and that it is multifactorial, adding that increase in the number of infected patients had been anticipated. Speaking about the factors of virus spread, he noted that it is driven by the rapid virus transmission typical for the coronavirus, as well as easing and lifting regulations and  neglecting preventive measures by the population (such as refusal to wear face masks, not washing hands frequently, not keeping distance or not avoiding large gatherings) that eventually creates good conditions for the spread of viruses and results in increased number of new cases that is quite logical.

 


Myth Detector Lab

Violation: Disinformation
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