How does the Wuhan coronavirus compare to seasonal flu?

The coronavirus is continuing to spread across China and the world with 35 cases confirmed in the UK.

But should Britons be more concerned by the spread of seasonal flu?

What might start off as a fever and a couple of days off work could lead to something more fatal and last season 1,692 people in England died from the viral infection.

So how do the viruses compare and will scientists ever create a universal vaccine?

  • Is the flu a bigger concern than the coronavirus?

The coronavirus has spread from China and has killed over 600 people so far. Credit: AP

Around 2% of people who have caught the new coronavirus have died but this figure is likely to change as treatments are developed and the virus is contained.

In comparison, SARS, which is considered similar, had a mortality rate of more than 10% when it was active in the early 2000s and the seasonal flu has a mortality rate of below 1%.

Although flu might not seem like a deadly illness, on average it kills around 17,000 people in England a year.

Public Health England told ITV News: "The number of flu cases and deaths due to flu-related complications varies each flu season.

"The average number of deaths in England for the last five seasons, 2014/15 to 2018/19, was 17,000 deaths annually.

"This ranged from 1,692 deaths last season, 2018/19, to 28,330 deaths in 2014/15."

Since October, more than 4,000 people with confirmed flu have been admitted to hospitals in England with at least 70 deaths.

  • How can I protect myself against seasonal flu?

Vaccines are considered the most effective protection against the flu and are readily available each year - something that has not been developed to fight against the coronavirus yet.

This flu season, over 25 million people in England will be offered a jab on the NHS, with all primary school-aged children offered a nasal spray equivalent for the first time.

However, vaccines are more effective some years than others.

According to The University of Oxford Vaccine Knowledge Project, the annual inactivated vaccine - which does not contain any live flu viruses - prevented 44% of flu cases in 2018-19 compared to only 15% in 2017-18.

  • Will seasonal flu ever be eradicated?

Wearable devices are helping scientists to predict when the flu cases are on the rise much faster than traditional methods. Credit: PA

Experts reckon we are well on the way to creating a universal vaccine to help target some parts of the virus.

Dr Jeremy Rossman, from the University of Kent, told ITV News: "If the vaccine doesn't match the changed virus then it doesn't protect very well, however we're now getting very close to a universal vaccine by trying to target those parts of the virus that rarely change."

Scientists in the USA are even looking into how wearable devices can help predict when an outbreak is emerging and stop it from circulating.

A study by the Scripps Research Translational Institute has looked into data from 200,000 Fitbit devices across a two-year period monitoring changes in heart rate and sleep patterns.

This real-time tracking hopes to speed up treatment and stop further spread as most information currently reported to healthcare providers happens weeks after tens of millions of people have been affected by flu.

So your smartwatch might know if you're coming down with something before you even think to book a GP appointment.

  • For more information on flu treatment or to find out if you're eligible for the flu vaccine, visit the NHS website