The novel coronavirus that’s sickening thousands globally – and at least 11 people in the U.S. – is a serious health threat.
However, a significantly deadlier virus strikes every year and has infected 15 million Americans across the country has gotten far less attention. It’s not a new pandemic – it’s influenza.
This new strain of coronavirus has killed 362 people so far, almost all of them in China. More than 17,205 total cases have been reported worldwide, although experts believe that total is underestimated.
By comparison, this year’s flu season has killed 8,200 people in the U.S. Overall, the World Health Organization estimates that the flu kills up to 650,000 people per year worldwide.
The 2019-2020 flu season is projected to be one of the worst in a decade, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Public health officials have said this year’s flu season is unique because two strains of the virus – influenza B and influenza A – are spreading at almost equal rates.
The CDC reports fewer than half of American adults got a flu shot last season, and only 62 percent of children received the vaccine, despite being vulnerable to respiratory illnesses.
However, getting vaccinated each year is the single best way to prevent seasonal illness. We should also practice good health habits like covering your mouth when you cough and washing your hands often to help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.
The coronavirus has upended the lives of many Chinese citizens, and it warrants a strong public-health response.
But influenza is far more deadly, and there is a safe, effective vaccine that could stop the flu from spreading.