No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

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No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer
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Dr. Henning Ansorg presenting to the Board of Supervisors on May 12, 2020

By edhat staff

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Officer stated the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is not simply the flu, but a much more contagious and deadly virus.

Dr. Henning Ansorg gave a presentation to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday affirming what other scientists and physicians have been saying all along, COVID-19 is different and more dangerous than influenza. 

On April 21, Supervisor Peter Adam questioned whether the stay at home order was necessary and requested influenza data after stating COVID-19 deaths were "no worse than the flu."

Dr. Ansorg came prepared to prove how much worse COVID-19 actually is. He prefaced his presentation by explaining the major differences between influenza reporting data and COVID-19 data. 

Data on the flu has not been measured in the way COVID-19 has been. The majority of data is based on surveillance where a physician would say "this is sort of like the flu," said Dr. Ansorg. 

The number of influenza deaths is not measured or lab-confirmed in the way COVID-19 cases are, the flu is only approximated and contains a slew of different pathogens, not just one flu, he said.

According to death certificates, there were seven flu-related deaths reported this year. Dr. Ansorg cautioned this does not mean the flu was confirmed with a lab test, but simply what was stated on the death certificate. Any mention of the flu on a death certificate regardless of lab verification or pre-existing conditions were counted in the report as the flu.

There were seven flu deaths in three months compared to eleven COVID-19 deaths in one month. Influenza has a fatality rate of 0.01% where COVID-19 has a fatality rate of 5.7% in the USA.

Supervisor Adam expressed his suspicion with the numbers stating it's questionable the last flu-related death was reported on March 18 followed by COVID-19 deaths, asking whether some of the COVID-19 deaths might actually be the flu.

Dr. Ansorg effectively shut him down by stating all deaths, including COVID-19 deaths, were tested for influenza and other viruses, and there was not a single dual diagnosis.

In terms of comparing the number of flu cases to COVID-19 cases, Dr. Ansorg said it's impossible to compare these as the flu is not a reportable disease. Reportable diseases are diseases considered to be of great public health importance.  In the United States, local, state, and national agencies require that these diseases be reported when they are diagnosed by doctors or laboratories.

COVID-19 is considered a reportable disease as are chickenpox, measles, and smallpox. The flu and cold viruses are not considered reportable diseases. 

The reproduction number (R0), or how infectious a disease can be, is between 1.2 to 1.4 for the flu whereas COVID-19 is 2.5. Meaning on average, a person with COVID-19 will infect at least two other people, twice as much as the flu.

"I'm not playing [influenza] down but it just doesn't compare to COVID-19 in terms of fatalities, in terms of reproduction number, meaning how infectious this virus is," said Dr. Ansorg.

He went on to state that influenza has been around for a very long time and even as the virus mutates from year to year, the public has at least a partial immunity to it which decreases the number of severe illnesses. 

"I've been a clinician for a quarter of a century for sure and I've yet to see, or recall, a lot of patients that have actually died from influenza. I've had a fair share of patients that had to be hospitalized and got really ill... COVID-19 definitely gets our attention," he said. 

When Supervisor Joan Hartmann asked what we could expect in the coming months, Dr. Ansorg wasn't sure but said the outbreak at the Lompoc prison provides an interesting scenario as testing the whole population proves 70% is positive for COVID-19 with the majority being asymptomatic.

"Yes, there is a possibility to get to so-called herd immunity, however, at what cost? That's the problem just because of the high fatality rate and the very contagiousness of this virus. It's very very difficult to open the flood gates and just let nature take its course. That is not possible because it is too aggressive," said Dr. Ansorg. 

He concluded by saying COVID-19 is here to stay and at this time it's unclear if the virus will provide some respite during the warmer season or not. 

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a-1589323518 May 12, 2020 03:45 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

No s--t, Sherlock. Now waiting to see how all those patrons at the Castle Rock restaurant in Colorado will be feeling in the next two weeks. Thanks, patrons, for volunteering to test the theory that this "flu" virus will miraculously go away without a vaccine. May your rallying cry for freedom and (psuedo) patriotism bolster your immunity. Good luck.

sacjon May 12, 2020 04:23 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

LCP - I'm with you, but at the same time, aren't our "freedoms" the primary concern these days? Freedom of speech, no matter how useless the speech is, is still paramount, right?

ChemicalSuperFreak May 12, 2020 04:34 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

LCP, like SACJON I feel it's freedom of speech. As you say, those nasty comments highlight a lack of maturity, so let them wear those comments like an albatross around their necks.

Chip of SB May 12, 2020 04:31 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

The 5.7% fatality rate stated in the above article is grossly misleading. The fatality rate is the number of deaths divided by the number of cases. Deaths can be measured somewhat accurately, but the number of cases cannot be because most cases are asymptomatic or mild. The denominator that gives that 5.7% fatality rate, the number of cases, is way too low. The outbreak in the prison provides an opportunity to measure the true fatality rate since all the prisoners are being tested and asymptomatic and mild cases can be accurately counted. This article gives the count of cases and deaths at the Lompoc prison complex as of Monday. I added up all the inmate and staff cases they listed and got a total of 937. So far, there have been 2 deaths, so the fatality rate is about 0.2%. Once the virus runs its course at the prison, the final case and death count will give us an accurate measurement of the fatality rate. I think we are looking at something well under 1%, not 5.7%.

Get over it May 12, 2020 06:31 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@5:37 Math? How can you possibly solve any math equation without the correct parameters? There is zero idea how many people have been infected. The deaths are not accurate either! If every person that dies is tested, then okay. If they are just assuming, which they are, it is impossible. What happened to it's all about the science? That's supposed to be based on facts. Just like math.

a-1589326859 May 12, 2020 04:40 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

COOLIO - you first haha! I'm staying the course for at least a little longer. The sooner we run out, the sooner we get another spike and go back to quarantine. Give it some time, we can handle it!

a-1589328442 May 12, 2020 05:07 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

How about we open things up and people who want to continue to shelter in place can do so while the people who want to go back to work or go out and enjoy life can do so as well. You know, give the people a choice. The government does not have to act as strict parents. Let people make their own decisions.

sacjon May 12, 2020 05:52 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

5:07 - Your philosophy doesn't work. If the people who "want to go back to work" (as if none of us want a paycheck) go, then get sick and spread it all over, then those who are trying to stay safe are at a much higher risk of infection. What if your housemate or family member needs to stay home due to a medical condition, yet you "want to go back to work?" What then? You move out or tell them sorry, my paycheck is more important that your life? Tell, what do you tell that person?

Sam The Dog May 12, 2020 06:39 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@SACJON it's isn't about wanting to go back to work, many HAVE to go to work. Rather than spending trillions yes, TRILLIONS, on a stimulus that would last a few months why not spend a much smaller amount assisting all those at high risk, elderly, medical conditions etc. into safe stay at home quarantined housing. We can create food delivery programs that safely provide them all the meals they need (and plenty of new jobs). The cost of doing this would be far outweighed by simply starting the economic engine that has powered our county for hundreds of years. That drive and ingenuity created the strongest economic engine the world has ever seen, one that has lead us to amazing prosperity, through world wars, cold wars, and prior epidemics that killed tens of millions more than Covid ever would, even with the "experts" initial worst case scenarios. AND OUR ANSWER TO THIS CRISIS IS TO TURN THAT ENGINE OFF INDEFINITELY!!! THIS IS ABSOLUTELY CRAZY!!!! as crazy as turning the engine of your car off when your battery dies, good luck getting it started again.

Get over it May 12, 2020 06:43 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@Sac I get your worry. I have two people with asthma in my family home. We are extremely careful yet I go to the grocery store, gas station, and limited work. The first two which all of us ALL go to are the worst. If you have underlying conditions, stay the F home! You ask " what do you tell them?" Well for a bunch of us it's we are all moving out. Sorry, your cell phone is not working, who's good to stand in line for food? It's an easy decision for those who don't have any monetary concerns.

sacjon May 12, 2020 06:47 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Sam - I agree 100% about the stimulus being a total waste. It could have gone to what you suggest, and/or to help small businesses pay their employees while not being able to work. Total waste.

a-1589342730 May 12, 2020 09:05 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Sac that is my whole point. If in a certain situation like that then they stay home. But why should the whole population have to stay home when it’s only the people with conditions that this affects most? It’s my health.

a-1589383764 May 13, 2020 08:29 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

5:07, That's the Nanny State mentality that so many of our elected officials have these days. They know what is better for us than we do. That is why they have passed so many laws and regulations in an attempt to control our lives and behavior. This entire economic lockdown is just symptomatic of that mind set.

a-1589330041 May 12, 2020 05:34 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Los Angeles may have a stay at home order through August. We could open SB now - they can come up here to visit and spend their tourist dollars knowing we are a safe community to visit.

a-1589331642 May 12, 2020 06:00 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@5:34 : are you kidding? Please, please say yes. Why on earth would we encourage droves of people to come to our town during a pandemic? Ah yes, for the $$$. How many of your fellow residents need to die so you can get a paycheck? 1? 10? How many??

a-1589332513 May 12, 2020 06:15 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@ 6:07 : the "droves" of people standing in line are doing so BECAUSE those businesses have instituted distancing policies, not that there are tons of people out trying to get sick. And yeah, I AM staying home to avoid getting sick, then spreading it to others who won't survive the virus. The reason I stay home is because the lives of my family and fellow residents are more important to me than a full paycheck.

Get over it May 12, 2020 06:49 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@6:15 A full paycheck? Well good for you and I'm happy that you can withstand and endure. I do have a problem with all the peeps in line at Home Depot, clearly not contractors, to "Home Improve". That's not essential.

Sam The Dog May 12, 2020 06:27 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

All of you wanting to continue the stay at home must have large bank accounts or jobs unaffected by the stay at home order. NONE OF YOU have yet laid out an idea on how everyone else is going to put food on their table or pay their rent or mortgages. Government handouts? That won't last long with no taxes coming in. NONE OF YOU are acknowledging the hypocrisy of Gov. Newsom and Hanna-Beths own words "we need to stay at home until a vaccine is available or we reach herd immunity". Someone please tell how we get to herd immunity if we can't go out? With Facci and other experts saying a vaccine is year plus away if it even works, how are we supposed to build herd immunity? What if we can't get a vaccine or herd immunity, stay shut in indefinitely? You're all acting like elitist that know what's best for everyone else. Everyone needs to do what's best themselves and their families. Don't want to take any risks yourself, perfectly okay with the rest us, you are free to stay home behind your locked door and not come out but NONE OF YOU have the right to deprive others of their life and liberty.

RHS May 12, 2020 06:36 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Sam the dog , your rant would be a bit more credible if you could at least spell Fauci's name. This sort of ignorant self-interest is pretty much the core of the manipulated Tea Party crowd. Please consider that in our social contract we have a duty to fellow human beings.

macpuzl May 12, 2020 06:36 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Another wonderful demonstration of a complete lack of understanding of the medical and legal aspects of the pandemic. Just repeating the same old con shibboleths. Luckily, most people recognize it as complete nonsense.

a-1589334148 May 12, 2020 06:42 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

SAM - again, a temporary closure of some businesses and events is not, I repeat it is not, a deprivation of our "life and liberty." That would mean it's related to a criminal investigation (see the 5th Amendment as you seem to be citing). Now, if you're trying to stretch into an eminent domain argument, that doesn't apply here either, as the government is not "taking" any personal or real property. Try as you might, you will not find a constitutional right that is being attacked.

Sam The Dog May 12, 2020 06:50 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

This is not temporary @6:42. When the governor puts requirements on opening that are impossible to meet the temporary becomes indefinite. And it is an eminent domain issue. If you have a commercially zoned property and a fully licensed restaurant in it, and they government say you can't operate that restaurant anymore, that IS a government taking. I need to step away, the view of the world many here have is.... call it whatever you want, elitist, "i know whats best for you" whatever, it's nuts. You don't think its safe, FINE, stay home and you won't ever get the virus. I don't see what your problem with is, just stay home!

Get over it May 12, 2020 06:55 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Wow. So all you entitled snowflakes think that the government can just hand everyone money and make it all better? Has anyone taken even a high school econ class? It's common sense people. Not rocket science, not political. follow the science of economics.

a-1589335100 May 12, 2020 06:58 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

The Governor is following the Trump Administration's plan for reopening. It involves lots of testing. Where are those tests. I heard he said that anyone who wanted a test could get one. You would be taking life and liberty if you got someone else sick. The fact is, governors have emergency powers under the 10 Amendment that allow them to take such actions. Trump has emergency powers that he could use to make more tests and masks (which would allow the country to re-open sooner) - but Trump doesn't use those powers so he can impress his low IQ, low empath neocon friends. Please - get outside all you want. Wear a mask, social distance. If you are looking for work there are plenty of jobs as front line workers available.

sacjon May 12, 2020 06:58 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

SAM - If the government says you need to close your business for a while (this is not permanent no matter how much you bang your keyboard), that is NOT a taking. It would be a taking if they revoked your license, shut you down and took ownership of the property. For eminent domain to apply, the government must take ownership and/or possession of the property. That is NOT happening. If your business gets shut down temporarily for a health violation (eg, rats in the soup) is that a taking? NO. Heck, same scenario, your restaurant is closed by the health dept. (government). You lose so much $$$ from the fine and lack of business that you have to close permanently and sell your shop. Guess what? STILL not a taking. It's not the government's fault you were unable to resume business. I get that your mad, but this is NOT a Constitutional matter. Find a new argument.


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