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We should treat COVID like norovirus – not the flu

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Because COVID symptoms – fever, cough, aches – are similar to flu symptoms, it is tempting to compare the two. Indeed, the UK’s new health secretary, Sajid Javid, recently said: “We are going to have to learn to accept the existence of Covid and find ways to cope with it – just as we already do with flu.”

But have we picked the wrong disease to compare COVID-19 with? Outside of a pandemic, we accept that seasonal flu is an infection anyone might catch. We vaccinate only those who are particularly prone to complications and treat people with severe side-effects, such as pneumonia. Otherwise, people are left to go about their business. Global deaths from flu-related illness typically amount to around 400,000 each year.

While we do need to find some way of living with COVID-19, the numbers suggest we’re still a long way from being able to treat it in the same way. There have been over 180 million cases around the world since early 2020, and at least 4 million people have died from the disease. On top of this, we’re not sure of the real effect of long COVID yet, but lasting symptoms are common, with one in ten people still experiencing illness 12 weeks after their infection. Currently,........

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