The Nature of Coronavirus versus Seasonal Flu


March 27, 2020

Post by

Vispi Kanga




Here is a little more information on the virus that may help explain a few things that people don’t understand and feel confused as to why Coronavirus is such a bigger deal than Seasonal flu. Both are infectious respiratory illnesses. It has to do with RNA sequencing (genetics).

While sequencing DNA gives a genetic profile of an organism, sequencing RNA reflects only the sequences that are actively expressed in the cells.

vispi-kanga-295x295_thumbSeasonal flu is an “all human virus”. The DNA/RNA chains that make up the virus are recognized by the human immune system. This means that your body has some immunity to it before it comes around each year. You get immunity either through exposure to a virus, or by getting a flu shot.

COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) viruses, come from animals. WHO tracks novel viruses in animals, (sometimes for years watching for mutations.) Usually these viruses only transfer from animal to animal (pigs in the case of H1N1) (birds in the case of the Spanish flu). But once, one of these animal viruses mutates, and starts to transfer from animals to humans… then it’s a problem. Reason is that we humans have NO natural or acquired immunity to this virus since the RNA sequencing of the genes inside the virus isn’t human, and the human immune system doesn’t recognize it so, we can’t fight it off.

Coronavirus existed in animals only, for nobody knows how long. Then one day, at an animal market, in Wuhan China, in December 2019, it mutated and made the jump from animal to people. At first, only animals could give this virus to a person. But what happened was that in just TWO WEEKS it mutated again and gained the ability to jump from human to human. Scientists call this virus “slippery” because it evolves fast.

This Coronavirus, not being in any form a “human” virus (whereas we would all have some natural or acquired immunity), took off like a rocket, because, humans have no known immunity…doctors have no known medicines for it. It so happens that this particular mutated animal virus, changed itself in such a way the way that it causes great damage to human lungs. History has shown that fast and immediate closings of public places has helped in the past pandemics. Philadelphia and Baltimore were reluctant to close events in 1918 and they were the hardest hit in the US during the Spanish Flu.

According to John Hopkins Coronavirus research center, the virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, changes their genetic code  (mutation) and convert them into aggressor and multiplier cells. Since the virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it is not killed, but decays on its own.  The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies. The virus is very fragile; the only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat.  That is why any soap or detergent is the best remedy, because the foam “cuts” the “fat” (that is why you have to rub so much: for 20 seconds or more, to make a lot of foam).  By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own. Alcohol or any mixture with over 65% alcohol (hand sanitizers) also dissolves the external lipid layer of the virus. Also a mixture of 1 part bleach and 5 parts water directly dissolves the protein, breaks it down from the inside.

The measure scientists use to determine how easily a virus spreads is known as the “basic reproduction number,” or R0 (pronounced R-nought). This is an estimate of the average number of people who catch the virus from a single infected person. According to JAMA review study and ISRIV(International society for influenza and respiratory virus diseases), flu has an R0 value of about 1.3. Preliminary studies have estimated an R0 value for the new coronavirus to be between 2 and 3. This means each infected person can spread the virus to an average of 2 to 3 people.

It’s important to note that R0 is not necessarily a constant number. Estimates can vary by location, depending on such factors as how often people come into contact with each other and the efforts taken to reduce viral spread. Control measures can lower a virus’s “R0”

Viral shedding is what happens when a virus has infected a host, has reproduced, and is now being released into the environment. It is what makes a patient infectious. The flu virus typically sheds in the first two days after symptoms start, and this can last for up to a week. But a study in Lancet this week which looked at patients in China, showed that survivors were still shedding the coronavirus for around 20 days (or until death). One was still shedding at 37 days, while the shortest time detected was eight days. This suggests coronavirus patients remain contagious for much longer than those with flu.

The World Health Organization (WHO), country-specific government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH). John Hopkins in the US, the National Health Service in the UK, or the Public Health Agency of Canada, are your best bet for health and behavioral recommendations.

About Vispi Kanga

Vispi Kanga was the principal scientist in global technology at Unilever and has more than 35 years experience in product development in dermatology and skin care formulations, working for multi-national companies in health and personal care industry. He has followed the evolution of the Health & Personal Care industry since the 70’s to it’s current stature as a $146 billion business in the United States.

His expertise has resulted in several patents in the development of new innovative products. He received his BS in Pharmacy from Ahmedabad India and did his postgraduation from Arnold & Marie Schwartz College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences (formerly known as Brooklyn College of Pharmacy).

Vispi has given numerous presentations in the area of skin care delivery systems and use of natural ingredients to the Personal Care Ingredients & Technology division of Health & Beauty America as well as other scientific organizations including Panacea, natural products expo India. He was the contributing editor of HAPPI magazine and also contributed articles and editorials in SpecialChem-The material selection platform. He was also an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Natural Sciences at Fairleigh Dickinson University.

You can find all articles by Vispi Kanga on Parsi Khabar at this link: Vispi Speaks

1 Comment

  1. Dinshaw Dastur

    A very educative article, absolute timely