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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johningoleta May 14, 2020 08:35 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

As of this morning, 5/14 per JHU website, US cases are 1,393,890 and US COVID-19 deaths are 84,239, so I calculate case fatility rate of 6.0%, so yes, he is wrong. It's worse than the 5.7%.

a-1589471348 May 14, 2020 08:49 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Yep, every single person who has Covid in the country has been tested and counted. So Yes... good job John!! You can divide! Doesn’t give us a number that is useful in any real capacity as it doesn’t account for every single person who has it but is it asymptotic or just mild enough that they didn’t (or couldn’t get tested)... which they say is 90-95% of people... but yeah... 6% !!!

a-1589388190 May 13, 2020 09:43 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

The comments here sound like every out-of-town visitor who stands at the end of the pier trying to convince abyone who will listen, that the compass painted wrong.

a-1589383552 May 13, 2020 08:25 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

It obviously And definitively doesn’t have a fatality rate of 5.7%. That statement needs to be addressed and corrected immediately as its dangerous misinformation. Assuming he simply misspoke but that is an egregious mistake.

chico berkeley May 13, 2020 05:09 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

You make my point.
They are not in it for the job, it is all about money and bennies in a job that does not ask much of the employee.
You think it is cool that a cop makes more working a desk,than any other employee of the city?
$400,000 or so if I recall.

a-1589405085 May 13, 2020 02:24 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

CHICO - teachers work for the government. Cops and firefighters work for the government. Our service men and women work for the government. Are you saying ALL of them finished in the bottom of their class and took the job as a last resort? Yes or no?

chico berkeley May 13, 2020 02:22 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Going on my 6th decade here and an entrepreneur for 50 years gives me plenty of "data".Did you go school to become a civil employee? I don't really know anyone who WANTED to work in a government job,it just becomes an avenue of last resort when your dreams come down around your head and you are forced to feed and house your family.
When it comes to government,its bureaucratic employees are always behind the curve.
Takes 3 times as long to finish a project and double the costs because public employees have nothing in the game.

a-1589388231 May 13, 2020 09:43 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Prove it Mr. Chico Berkeley. What data supports this allegation? That is an outrageous slander to characteristic all of our public workers (including teachers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, engineers, etc. ) as bottom of their classes. Prove it Mr. Chico Berkeley. What data supports this allegation?

chico berkeley May 13, 2020 09:10 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Everyone here does realize that people who work for the city,county,state are at the BOTTOM of their graduating class and usually can't find their ass with both hands,directions and a mirror. This guy here is no savior.Continue to live in fear if that is YOUR path. Stop messing mine up with all your hysterics.
Exposure is key to anyone making thru this and I am sorry for the weak and frail who won't make it. Seems that most academics have forgotten or never learned about survival of the fittest.
If it makes you pissed off to read this than maybe down deep you know there is only one way thru this.We must think with our heads, not with our hearts this time.

SBCactus May 13, 2020 08:34 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Yes, many of us now qualify for the COVID/19 testing going on at Earl Warren. My daughter took her elderly grandmother for her appointment there last Friday morning. Very professional & efficient. I received text message & email later that day, saying I’d be notified of test results within 48-72 hours. It’s now been 120 hours (5 days) and not a peep. I’ve heard COVID-19 test results from Sansum/Cottage typically take 48 hours. So, more testing is indeed taking place - which is a huge step forward. Hopefully the process will soon be streamlined - or LHI needs to revise their message as to when patients can realistically expect results.

lss May 12, 2020 09:35 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Dr. Ansorg contradicts himself by saying flu deaths are not lab confirmed, but then he said in response to Supervisor Adams that all deaths, including COVID deaths, are tested for flu. So, which is it?

I think we also know the 5.7% COVID death rate is not accurate. No one knows the denominator, since so many COVID cases are asymptomatic.

ChemicalSuperFreak May 12, 2020 10:16 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

LSS: That 5.7% mortality is definitely not accurate. How many cases are truly asymptomatic is a truly interesting question. Some people insist there are a large number of asymptomatic cases. Would more testing prove that? Back on April 22 California peaked in deaths/day (115). Around then (April 18) SB County were reporting around 189 test/day, with an infection rate of 18.25%. One week later (April 27), with the same number of test/day being reported, the infection rate dropped to 11.69%. So more tests were done, and it revealed that fewer people actually had SARS-CoV-2 than was thought the week before. This number obviously climbed as Lompoc FCI messed up all our numbers. With an increase in testing in the past week, focused almost exclusively on the FCI, the infection rate jumped up to 16.09% (May 10). Big surprise. But since then the number has lowered to 15.44% (yesterday) and now 15.11% (today) as the FCI outbreak seems to have run it's course. I'm pretty sure this number will keep falling for a period of time, depending on how people behave during Phase 2 and beyond. The take home lesson is that more testing has not produced an overall trend in more infections. These numbers have probably all been from PCR testing. I was not impressed with the sensitivity and selectivity of the early antibody tests, but the new one from Abbott looks solid. Perhaps that will reveal past infections for which people reported no symptoms. I think we have a long wait until we have accurate numbers for infection and mortality.

Ahchooo May 12, 2020 09:01 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

We need to also consider that we are still learning about this virus. We thought we knew the basic course of Covid-19, but then we found there are some nasty after-effects (kidney and lung damage, etc.) for many who recover from the initial illness. And now we see children getting some bad symptoms quite different from Covid. We don’t know why some people get no symptoms and others, even some with no pre-existing conditions, suffer badly. We don’t have much in the way of effective treatments. And we still have to manage the numbers of sick people so our health care workers don’t get overwhelmed. Seems to me we need to be very cautious about reopening. But I do think we can open a few more stores and businesses, if we do it right.

GeneralTree May 12, 2020 07:34 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Ah glad I checked in to the comments of this article. The same 3 alt-right trolls who pay a few bucks for the minimal edhat subscription whining about the Constitution and how their rights are being violated. Darwin always wins. Will check back tomorrow.

a-1589379249 May 13, 2020 07:14 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Adam is so lazy. He would rather whine with his buddy Andy Caldwell and just repeat the Fox News mantra. I hope his replacement Nelson is a better supervisor and is at least willing to do his homework. Adam would better serve our County by staying home on the ranch. Oh wait, his ranch products got quite a few people sick a few years ago because of his refusing to follow best practices and adopting his " I can do anything I want" farming style. He gives the local ag. community a bad name.

Kruppe May 12, 2020 08:46 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

"Supervisor Peter Adam", sounds like an intellectually lazy fool. "I don't believe it" is something a 2nd grade kid would say. Adults bring well formed, scientific arguments based on data (or a robust model) to the table. Good grief!

ginger1 May 12, 2020 06:56 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Dr. Ansorg is dead (pun intended) wrong. Just go to the CDC FluView website and read all the many ways in which he is wrong. For example: "for surveillance purposes as a death resulting from a clinically compatible illness that was confirmed to be influenza by an appropriate laboratory diagnostic test." Every single part of influenza surveillance, from hospital admissions to fatalities is confirmed by laboratory testing, even down to the particular strain and sub type of the virus, by location in the USA, at each and every week. If you plan on viewing the data that confirms that Ansorg is completely wrong, better hurry. The CDC is transitioning to COVID data reporting and the influenza data is becoming more difficult to find. So I took screen shots, just in case.

macpuzl May 12, 2020 06:54 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

The cartoon attached to the article on the Indy site entitled "The Day the Earth Stood Still" is a perfect illustration of these clowns clamoring for easing of the pandemic protocols.

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.

a-1589388785 May 13, 2020 09:53 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

Re8:39 "What is the benefit of testing people with no symptoms?". Approx. 40% of the population with CV 19 is asymptomatic but can spread the disease, in other words, these folks that show no symptoms can be and are dangerous vectors. That is why the White House tests everyone every day. If the general population is tested on a regular basis, dangerous outbreaks could be caught early before masses of people begin to be infected and die.

a-1589384399 May 13, 2020 08:39 AM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

What is the benefit of testing people with no symptoms? Testing people with symptoms is helpful as part of their medical treatment. But testing the general population only tells that, at that point in time, the person either did or did not have the virus. Someone could get tested and the next day be exposed and contract the disease. So testing the general population is basically just a feel-good thing.

ChemicalSuperFreak May 12, 2020 09:26 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@ 9:08 PM: You must be new around here, because I wrote just yesterday that the County was incredibly slow in rolling out testing for those who need them. How many tests a day do you think we need? With all the complaining you're doing you must have a number in mind. Do you need one??? Then go get one. No one is stopping you. You're lying when you say that they're not for everyone, when it says specifically that asymptomatic, non-risk group, non-responders can get one, you just won't be a priority so you'll have to wait. You don't want to wait, then that's your problem.

Sam The Dog May 12, 2020 09:11 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@RHS, that social contract at duty to my fellow human beings is exactly what I'm following. The issue on this board today is the flat out refusal to listen to any point of view contrary to their own. Listen, learn, evolve. I'm still waiting for any solution or end game to this situation from any of those that don't share my viewpoint. Still waiting.... still waiting.... all I've received is insults, criticism and negativity. Zero constructive ideas, no open and honest discussion, just criticism from people with no constructive ideas to contribute themselves.

ChemicalSuperFreak May 12, 2020 08:55 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@7:32PM: You're not telling the whole truth, either intentionally or because you need to read more. The county is averaging about 450-500 tests/day. 132 test/day at two locations (SB and SM) as well as around 200/day at Cottage Hospital. There may be other testing locations that are contributing the daily numbers posted on the PHD website, because there's a lot of fluctuations in their reports.

a-1589337136 May 12, 2020 07:32 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

GET OVER IT You need to have symptoms to get one. Grow up. Part of your President's reopening plan, a major part - includes expanding testing to reach the latter stages of reopening. Earl Warren can do 132 tests per day. That is not enough. Read more or learn to read and comprehent.

Get over it May 12, 2020 07:28 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

@6:58 They are at Earl Warren. Free of charge if you don't have insurance. The fact that you think it's a good idea for the government to MAKE a business do what they want, for you, says enough.

a-1589336825 May 12, 2020 07:27 PM
No, COVID-19 is Not the Flu Says Public Health Officer

STD hasn't lost a loved one to COVID. I have. STD hasn't prayed as a friend's child was delirious with COVID and had an extended hospital stay. I have. STD you are the elitist.


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