New Hampshire Gov. Christopher Sununu (R) consistently refers to the coronavirus as “the flu,” a comparison that medical experts say is inaccurate and downplays the risk to individuals and the wider population.
“Once you get it ― you remember 98% of the people that get it are going to get better. And we’re going to have the flu. And then you’re going to be immune to it,” Sununu said in a radio interview on WRKO Friday. “So there is an end game here to be sure.”
Similarly, he said that people should “treat it as the flu, which it is,” in another radio interview two days ago.
And on March 11, he told New Hampshire Public Radio that there was no need for him to declare a state of emergency. At that point, there were five confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.
“The good news is, is that when you go on quarantine or God forbid, you should even get the virus, it’s about a two-week period, right? Either you’re going to have the flu for a couple of weeks. You’re going to be off for a couple of weeks. It’s not months, and months and months,” he said, again trying to downplay the disease’s severity. “So it is something that is very likely manageable from a financial standpoint.”
Trump has also repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the flu, trying to downplay the seriousness of the crisis.
“It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for,” he said in February. “And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.”
The coronavirus and the flu are not the same thing. The coronavirus is far more lethal.
“I mean, people always say, well, the flu does this, the flu does that,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, said on March 11. “The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality rate of 10 times that. That’s the reason I want to emphasize we have to stay ahead of the game in preventing this.”
To underscore, the coronavirus “is 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu,” in Fauci’s words.
There is also a vaccine for the seasonal flu. It’s not 100% effective, but it does provide some defense. There is currently no approved vaccine for the coronavirus.
And as NPR has noted, “Data from China shows that each coronavirus case seems to infect around 2 to 2.5 additional people. That’s higher than flu. The average patient spreads the flu virus to about 1.3 others.”
And the seasonal flu is the most contagious three to four days after symptoms begin appearing, whereas it appears that the coronavirus may be especially contagious before any symptoms show ― making it hard to catch and contain early.
Sununu’s office did not return a request for comment.
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