There are several posts circulating around social media comparing today's COVID-19 response to that of other pandemics. Many of them allege that H1N1, also referred to as Swine Flu, was much worse than COVID-19 and that politics or the media are impacting the world's response to today's virus. 
 
Dr. Bob Lutz, with the Spokane Regional Health District, pointed out a major difference between the two pandemics. 
 
"What they're guesstimating right now is that the mortality rate is between two, three, maybe up to four percent, that's for COVID-19. For the H1N1 or swine flu of 2009, it was less than one percent," Dr. Lutz said. 
 
Dr. Lutz went on to clarify that initial numbers put COVID-19's death rate at least 100 times higher than that of H1N1, though these are preliminary statistics and they will likely change as time goes on. 
 
He also stated that COVID-19 is spreading exponentially. On average, initial data shows that for every one person who gets it, another two people are infected. This means that COVID-19 is spreading at a higher rate than most forms of influenza as well. 
 
The other concern associated with COVID-19 is that you can spread it without showing any symptoms. Dr. Lutz pointed out that in countries that have the resources to test their population liberally, a portion of those testing positive either had mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, though they could still spread the virus to others. 
 
The incubation period is also anywhere from 2 to 14 days, though on average, it's about 5 to 6 days. This means that you can spread COVID-19 for days before you show symptoms, assuming you end up showing them at all. 
 
"It really is serious, and I can't help but emphasize that. We wouldn't be taking the measures that we are, some people think extreme measures, that we are, if we weren't concerned about the nature of this pandemic," Dr. Lutz said. 
 
It's not overly productive to compare numbers from a past pandemic to one that is currently unfolding. The numbers are changing too quickly. However, for reference, the CDC estimates that anywhere from 151,700 to 575,400 people died worldwide from H1N1 during the first year the virus circulated. In the United States from 2009 to 2010, the CDC estimates that between 43.3 and 89.3 million people were infected, between 195,086 and 402,719 were hospitalized and between 8,868 and 18,306 people died during the H1N1 pandemic. 
 
With a significant number of deaths from the H1N1 pandemic, and with COVID-19 having a significantly higher death rate, Dr. Lutz believes that the world's intense global response to COVID-19 could partially be caused by the lessons the world learned during the H1N1 pandemic. 
 
Dr. Lutz said it's too early to tell if COVID-19's numbers will surpass those of the H1N1 pandemic, but that because of a more intense global response, hopefully those numbers won't get as high as they did during the H1N1 pandemic, even with COVID-19's higher fatality rate. 
 
As many on social media continue to politicize this virus, Dr. Lutz wants to clarify that this is not a partisan issue. 
 
"It's easy to point fingers or blame, the reality is, right now we just all have to work together to address, irrespective of your party affiliations, your partisanship," he said. 
 
His biggest message though, is for people who think state and government officials are taking the COVID-19 response too far.
 
"We're not overreacting. It's very simple, we're not overreacting. This is real, people need to acknowledge that this is a real issue." Dr. Lutz said. "We wouldn't be taking these measures if we didn't think it was realistic and really concerning. So, take heed. I mean, it's really something that you need to be aware of and everybody needs to be aware of."