Coronavirus has already shown itself to be more deadly and more contagious than the flu, and there’s another difference — but this time it’s good news.
Scientists have discovered that COVID-19 does not mutate the way influenza does, meaning that a single vaccine will likely protect you… when it finally gets developed.
While all virus mutate, the flu is famous for its rapid changes as it makes its way through the human population, leaving immunologists literally guessing as to what strain will most likely rear its ugly head when the season rolls round, so they can ready a vaccine.
But according to Peter Thielen, a molecular geneticist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory who has been studying the novel coronavirus, the strain first found at the original outbreak site of Wuhan is more or less the same as the one currently infecting Americans months later.
He told The Washington Post that there are only about 4 – 10 genetic differences between the strains, a relatively small number for having passed through so many people.
“At this point, the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes the disease covid-19) would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine.”
He said the shot will be more like the chickenpox or measles vaccine, which will offer immunity for a long time. “It’s great news,” he added.
The bad news is — a coronavirus vaccine is still 12 to 18 months away, scientists estimate.
Meanwhile, COVID-19’s other comparisons to the flu are not as favorable.
Last week Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that while the seasonal flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1 percent, killing around one in 1,000, the novel coronavirus has a rate of 1 percent — claiming the lives of one in a hundred.
Latest figures are more jarring still: of the 131,000 resolved cases reported worldwide, around 112,000 have recovered while almost 20,000 have died, pushing the running mortality rate to 15 percent — meaning three in every 20 who had the virus died.
Also, while the flu has an infection rate of around 1.3, coronavirus’s infection rate is 3 — meaning that by the time an infected person has passed on the flu to 14 others, they would have passed on COVID-19 to 59,000.
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