There is a virus spreading throughout our country and thousands will be infected soon if they aren’t already. Nearly 80,000 Americans will probably die before the year is over. Should we be worried?
The name of that virus is influenza. In 2017, 959,000 Americans were hospitalized with influenza virus and 79,400 died. There is no reason to believe the 2019-2020 flu season will be much better. Yet only 37% of adults aged 18-49 in America got a flu vaccine that year and only 60% of adults aged 65 and above. Clearly, America does not take the influenza virus very seriously.(Flu Shot or Not?)
I share those statistics with you for one reason – perspective.
Yesterday, President Trump and his Corona Virus Task Force met with the media to discuss the current state of the union with regard to the threat of the corona virus. As of yesterday, there were 24 known cases of corona virus in the United States and there was one reported death in the state of Washington. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of NIAID (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), perhaps the world’s leading authority on control of infectious diseases, spoke to the media.
Dr. Fauci reassured Americans that everything possible is being done to control the spread of the corona virus in this country. President Trump eliminated all travel from China several weeks ago as an early preventive measure to limit the spread of the disease in this country. All Americans returning from China have been quarantined for at least 14 days as an added precaution. Yesterday, the president and his task force announced travel restrictions from other countries where the virus is spreading, including Iran, South Korea, and parts of southern Italy. Restrictions from entry across our southern border are in consideration.
Most reassuring, to me, was Dr. Fauci’s characterization of the corona virus’ behavior. Much like influenza, it is spread by airborne contaminants and close contact with infected patients. Also, like influenza, the vast majority of patients have mild to moderate symptoms and can be treated at home. About 80%, like influenza, will not need hospitalization and will recover without incident. Only about 20% will require medical treatment including possible hospitalization and only a small percentage of those will die. Most of the fatal cases, but not all, will occur in those with compromised immune systems and concurrent medical diseases such as chronic respiratory disease, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity. Such was the case in the one patient in the U.S. who died recently from the disease.
China now reports 39,002 people have been cured of their corona virus infection and discharged. About 37,000 Chinese people remain infected. South Korea has 3,150 cases with four fatalities.
The Corona Virus Task Board yesterday declared the risk to Americans is still low. People can protect themselves by taking many of the same steps they should be taking to prevent contracting or spreading influenza including:
- Get a flu shot
- Wash your hands frequently
- Avoid contact with people who are sick
- Stay home if you are sick
- Masks are more important for the sick than the healthy – The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, recently pleaded with Americans to “Stop Buying Masks” because they are of little value to most people and should be reserved for use by sick patients and healthcare providers.
Americans should take this virus seriously, but they should also take influenza seriously. At this point, the influenza virus has proven a much more serious threat to our health than the corona virus. That may change soon, but there is certainly no reason to panic. We have more to fear from fear itself than from this new virus.