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What is the difference between coronavirus and the flu?

Incidences of the new coronavirus from out of China are spreading around the world, with China updating numbers of those infected and those who have died almost daily. At the same time, the flu season is almost upon us in Australia, with vaccines rolling out across all SmartClinics locations from early March.

In light of the upcoming flu season coinciding with the growing incidences of the new coronavirus, we decided to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about the new coronavirus, the flu, how they differ, and what steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.

WHAT DO THE FLU AND CORONAVIRUS HAVE IN COMMON?

Both influenza and coronavirus are viruses that can cause respiratory issues. Approximately 1% of flu cases are severe enough to be hospitalized, while the number for coronavirus is 14% (although this is data from China, where they are taking a very strong stance to prevent further spread of the virus). Many of the outward symptoms of the new coronavirus and the flu may be similar, however, there are some differences that have been observed to date.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN SYMPTOMS BETWEEN THE FLU AND CORONAVIRUS?

Understanding differences in symptoms between the two illnesses might help you understand exactly what you’re dealing with when you or a loved one becomes ill. Of course, we always recommend seeking a professional opinion when you’re sick.

There are many commonalities between coronavirus symptoms and flu symptoms. However, with so little known about the new coronavirus, it is extremely difficult to delineate differences that would help a layperson identify which illness they have without proper testing.

Coronavirus

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), common symptoms of coronavirus infection include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Breathing difficulties

In severe cases, symptoms become more advanced:

  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome
  • Kidney failure pneumonia
  • Death

To highlight the difficulty of accurately describing coronavirus symptoms, around 5% of cases report a sore throat and runny nose, while a small percentage also report diarrhea and vomiting.

Influenza

Influenza has been widely researched and most Australians are probably already familiar with its symptoms. However, according to WHO, they can include:

  • Fever (often with abrupt onset)
  • Chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain

Still not sure?

Consider where you live and where you have been in the last 14 days. If you live in an area with very limited cases of known coronavirus, and you find yourself with a sore throat or a runny nose and some muscle pain, you are more likely to have the flu than coronavirus.

The likelihood that you have Coronavirus rather than the Flu really depends on the following factors:

  • If you have traveled to a ‘high-risk’ country. (As of 3 March 2020: China and Iran – to ‘do not travel’; South Korea, Japan, Italy, and Mongolia – to ‘exercise a high degree of caution’.) Check updates here.
  • You have been in close contact with someone who has traveled to these countries or has been diagnosed or suspected of having Coronavirus.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT YOU HAVE CORONAVIRUS OR THE FLU

If you believe that you have coronavirus, book a doctor appointment BY PHONE, and make it clear when you’re booking your appointment that you are concerned you may have symptoms of coronavirus. Please do not book online. We’ll chat with you over the phone to book you in to see a GP and ensure that you’re ok. If possible, wear a mask when you leave the house but try to stay home and rest to avoid spreading it further. Please practice good hygiene! Wash hands, cough into your elbow, throw away dirty tissues.

If you suspect that you have the flu, the same rules apply. Speak to a medical professional. Thankfully, we have the flu vaccine available to help people avoid contracting the flu.

WHAT’S MORE DEADLY – THE CORONAVIRUS OR THE FLU?

It is extremely difficult to form an adequate assessment of a novel coronavirus that hasn’t had time to settle into the human population. As a new disease, it is possible that it may have a higher death rate as few people will have a defense against it.

Generally speaking, approximately 0.05% of people who contract influenza will die from it. Some very rough estimates of coronavirus lethality put the death rate at 2%, approximately 40 times higher than that of the flu. However, there is very little value in such estimates at this stage of the disease’s progression and it is more likely to drop rather than increase, particularly as treatments improve and previously mild, undiagnosed cases are also counted.

HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE CORONAVIRUS IN AUSTRALIA?

As of Wednesday, February 12th, there were 15 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in Australia. Five of those people had recovered, while the other 10 were on their way to recovery. Efforts continue to prevent those with the illness entering the country or spreading it to others around them.

There is a very strong chance that the incidences of coronavirus in Australia will increase. This doesn’t mean that we’re facing a pandemic. It just means that a new disease with a long incubation period is likely to spread very easily in an interconnected world, particularly in a nation like Australia that shares a lot of air travel with affected counties such as China.

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Covid vaccine tracker: How’s my country and the rest of the world is doing?

When it comes to the coronavirus vaccine there is one question most people are asking – when will I get it? A handful of countries have set very specific vaccination targets, but for the rest of the world, the picture is less clear.

Getting the world vaccinated against Covid-19 is a matter of life and death, involving complicated scientific processes, multinational corporations, government promises, and backroom deals. So figuring out when and how everyone in the world will get the vaccine is not easy.

Agathe Demarais is the director of global forecasting at the Economist Intelligence Unit, which has done some of the most comprehensive research on the topic. She has looked at the world’s production capacity, along with the healthcare facilities needed to get vaccines into people’s arms, the number of people a country has to contend with, and what they can afford.

  • Coronavirus cases, deaths, vaccinations by country
  • Will countries be left behind in the vaccine race?
  • The vaccines that work – and the others on the way

Many of the findings seem to fall along predictable lines of rich v poor. The UK and the US are both well supplied with vaccines right now because they could afford to invest a lot of money into vaccine development and put themselves at the front of the queue.

Rich countries that didn’t do that, like Canada or those in the EU bloc, are a little further behind. Canada was criticized at the end of last year for buying up five times the supply it needs to cover its population, but it seems it wasn’t positioned for priority delivery.

That’s partly because the country decided to invest in vaccines from European factories, afraid that the US under Donald Trump would issue export bans. It turned out to be a bad bet. European factories are struggling with supply and recently it has been the EU, not the US, that has been threatening export bans.

“As long as the European market doesn’t have enough vaccines, I think that big imports to Canada are going to remain off the cards,” says Ms. Demarais. Most low-income countries haven’t started vaccinating yet. But some countries in the middle are doing better than expected.

Global vaccine rollout

Enter a country or territory to find out the progress of the vaccine rollout

Type in 2 or more characters for results.

Serbia is eighth in the world in terms of the percentage of its population vaccinated, ahead of any country in the EU.

Its success is partly down to an efficient roll-out but it’s also benefitting from vaccine diplomacy – a battle between Russia and China for influence in eastern Europe. It’s one of the few places where the Russian vaccine Sputnik V and the Chinese vaccine SinoPharm are already available.

On paper, Serbians are given a choice of what vaccine they would prefer – Pfizer, Sputnik, or SinoPharm. In reality, most people end up being given SinoPharm.

And the influence China is exerting here is likely to be long-term. Countries giving a first and second dose of one of the Chinese vaccines are also likely to look to Beijing for booster doses if needed.

The United Arab Emirates is also relying heavily on the SinoPharm vaccine – it makes up 80% of the doses being administered there right now. And the UAE is building a SinoPharm production facility.

“China is coming with production facilities, trained workers, so it’s going to give long-term influence to China,” says Ms. Demarais. “And it will make it very, very tricky for recipient governments to say no to China for anything in the future.”

Being a global vaccine superpower, however, doesn’t mean your population will be vaccinated first. The EIU’s research predicts two of the world’s vaccine production powerhouses, China and India, may not be sufficiently vaccinated until the end of 2022. That’s because they have huge populations to contend with, as well as a shortage of health workers.

In India, the country’s success as a Covid vaccine producer is largely down to one man, Adar Poonawalla. He’s chief executive of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer.

Last year, his family started to think he has lost his mind when he began betting hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money on vaccines that he didn’t know would work.

In January, the first of those vaccines, developed by Oxford and AstraZeneca, was delivered to the Indian government. Now he’s producing 2.4 million doses a day. He’s one of two main suppliers to the Indian government – and is also supplying Brazil, Morocco, Bangladesh, and South Africa.

‘Magic sauce’

“I thought the pressure and all the madness would end now that we’ve made the product,” he says. “But the real challenge is trying to keep everybody happy.

“I thought there’d be so many other manufacturers who would be able to supply. But sadly, at the moment at least, in the first quarter, and perhaps even the second quarter of 2021, we’re not going to see a substantial increase in supply.”

He says production cannot be ramped up overnight. “It takes time,” Mr. Ponnawalla adds. “People think that the Serum Institute has got a magic sauce. Yes, we’re good at what we do but it’s not a magic wand.” He currently has an edge because he started building facilities in March last year, as well as stockpiling things like chemicals and glass vials in August.

For manufacturers starting production now, it will take months to produce vaccines. And the same applies to any boosters that might be needed to tackle new variants.

Mr. Ponnawalla says he is committed to supplying India and then Africa through a scheme called the Covax facility.

Coax, an initiative led by the WHO and other health organizations aims to get affordable vaccines to every country in the world. Countries that can’t afford vaccines will get them for free through a special fund. The rest will pay. But the theory is that they will get a better price by negotiating through the bloc than if they had done so on their own.

Coax is planning to start delivering vaccines this month. But the plan is being undermined by the fact many countries involved are also negotiating their deals on the side.

Mr. Poonawalla says almost every leader in Africa has been in touch with him to access vaccines independently. Last week, Uganda announced it had secured 18 million doses from the Serum Institute at $7 a jab – much more than the $4 being paid by Coax. The institute says it is in talks with Uganda but denies this deal was ever signed.

In total, Mr. Poonawalla’s firm is due to supply 200m doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Covax and has promised 900m more doses in the future.

The Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has since advised against the rollout of the vaccine in countries where the South African strain is present. He says he is still committed to the scheme but admits it faces problems. It’s dealing with too many different vaccine producers, he says, each offering varying prices and timelines for delivery.

Ms. Demarais and the EIU are not overly optimistic about what Covax can achieve either. The timelines for delivery of vaccines are still not clear and even if things go according to plan, the scheme only aims to cover 20-27% of a country’s population this year. “It’s going to make a small marginal difference, but not a game-changer,” she says.

In her forecast, some countries may not get widespread coverage even by 2023. Some may never be fully covered. Vaccination may not be a priority for every country, especially one that has a young population and is not seeing huge numbers of people getting sick.

The problem with that scenario is as long as the virus can prosper somewhere it will be able to mutate and migrate. Vaccine-resistant variants will continue to evolve.

It’s not all bad news. Vaccines are being produced faster than ever but the scale of the task – inoculating 7.8 billion people around the world – is gigantic. And it’s never been attempted before.

Ms. Demarais believes governments should level with their people on what is possible. “It’s very difficult for a government to say, ‘No, we’re not going to achieve widespread immunization coverage before several years.’ Nobody wants to say that.”

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Vaccines against Covid-19

Data from two separate studies published in the UK, one in England and another in Scotland, have shown vaccines against Covid-19 are effective in cutting disease transmission and hospitalizations from the first dose.
Analysis from Public Health England has shown the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70% after a first dose.
That risk is reduced by 85% after a second dose.
The public health body’s study of real-world data also showed vaccinated people who go on to become infected are far less likely to die or be hospitalized.
Hospitalization and death from Covid-19 are reduced by over 75% in those who have received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the analysis.
“This crucial report shows vaccines are working — it is extremely encouraging to see evidence that the Pfizer vaccine offers a high degree of protection against coronavirus,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said.
Britain is one of the countries hardest-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, with 120,757 deaths.
It was the first nation to begin mass vaccinations in December and more than 17 million people have now received at least a first vaccine dose, one-third of the UK’s adult population.
“We will see much more data over the coming weeks and months but we should be very encouraged by these initial findings,” said Dr. Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England.
At the same time, a study in Scotland has shown the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccinations have led to a reduction in Covid-19 admissions to hospitals after a first dose.
The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that by the fourth week after receiving the initial dose the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization from Covid by up to 85%.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk by 94%.
“These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future,” Professor Aziz Sheikh, who lead the research, said in a statement.
“We now have national evidence, across an entire country, that vaccination protects Covid-19 hospitalizations.
“Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease,” he added.
The research compared the outcomes of those who had received their first jab with those who had not.
It found that vaccination was associated with an 81% reduction in hospitalization risk in the fourth week among those aged 80 years and over when the results for both vaccines were combined.
The project, which used patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine roll-out in real-time, analyzed a dataset covering the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million between 8 December and 15 February.
Some 1.14 million vaccines were administered to 21% of the Scottish population during the period.
The Pfizer vaccine was received by 650,000 people in Scotland, while 490,000 had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
It is the first research to describe the effect of vaccinations on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalization across an entire country.
Previous results about vaccine efficacy have come from clinical trials.
The study team said the findings applied to other countries using the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.
The data reported “is extremely promising,” said Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology.
“Although there does seem to be some difference in effectiveness levels measured across age groups, the reduction in hospitalizations for the older age groups is still impressively high,” he said.
“We now need to understand how long-lasting this protection is for one dose of the vaccine.”

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Taking Care of Your Mental Health Is a Key Piece of the puzzel to crohns disease

When you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, it’s not just your physical health that’s affected. The frequent pain, unpredictability, and worrying that comes with inflammatory bowel disease can disrupt your emotional wellbeing, too.

And that stress, in turn, can make your IBD symptoms even worse.

“It’s pretty well understood that, while stress does not cause IBD, it contributes to flares, and it can contribute to the first expression of IBD,” says Stephen Lupe, PsyD, a clinical health psychologist who specializes in digestive diseases.

That’s why taking care of your emotional wellbeing is a critical part of managing your IBD.

“A lot of patients get stuck in this cycle of putting their life on hold while they try to cope with the disease, and that tends to increase depression, increase anxiety and increase stress,” he explains.

“But we want them to know that they can have a life and the disease at the same time. There are things that we can do to help their bodies cope with these conditions.”

Mental health and IBD go hand-in-hand

Studies have found that people who have IBD are more likely to develop anxiety and depression than people who don’t have it.

“Sometimes, people who are frequently in pain start to become predictive with the pain way before it ever happens, and they’ll stop doing things in anticipation of the pain,” Dr. Lupe notes. “Maybe they’ll stop eating, or they’ll stop going out, and their lives get narrower and narrower, which a lot of times can influence the development of anxiety or depression.”

Sleep problems are also common in people who have IBD, especially during a flare, he adds.

It’s important to be aware of these risks. If you’ve lost interest in doing things you used to love, or are struggling with the day-to-day challenges of living with a chronic gut disorder, speak up and let your doctor know what’s going on. He or she is there to help.

“A lot of gastroenterologists know psychologists that they can refer patients to,” Dr. Lupe says.

Can a health psychologist help you?

If you’re already frequenting your doctor’s office, making yet another medical appointment might not be at the top of your “things I want to do” list.

But seeking help to cope with the mental and emotional aspects of the disease can be an important step in improving your quality of life and managing symptoms. Research suggests that the gut and the brain are connected through the gut-brain axis and that stress may make symptoms worse.

“My job is to talk to patients about all of the things that come along with being diagnosed with a gut condition, whether that’s stress, anxiety or depression, or the lifestyle modifications that need to happen,” Dr. Lupe says.

“We also look at things like body image issues, the stress, and fear that can sometimes come along with having to use the bathroom frequently, and even things like talking to our partners about the sexual performance after being diagnosed.”

A psychologist may recommend one of these forms of therapy:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing thinking and behavioral patterns.
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy, where people learn to accept the challenges that come with their condition and focus on being present and mindful in their situation.
  • Hypnotherapy, which uses mind-body techniques to help people reach a relaxed state where they are more open to suggestions that may influence the quantity or intensity of symptoms.

Many people find additional support in the form of online or IRL support groups. “This can be very normalizing and validating to meet other people who have the same kinds of things going on in their life,” Dr. Lupe says.

But ongoing struggles with mood, stress, body image, sleep, anxiety, or coping with the day-to-day challenges of living with IBD should be addressed by a mental health professional.

“I think there’s a lot of stigmas, and a lot of patients have fear of talking about some of this other stuff that’s going on,” Dr. Lupe says. “People don’t always realize that there are things that we can do to help our bodies and minds cope so that we can have a life and keep moving forward. So make sure that you advocate for yourself and find a way to talk to someone.”

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