Relax About Coronavirus; Focus on the Flu

The world is in a panic about the coronavirus. The U.S. has its first mandatory quarantine since the ‘60s. Around two percent of people who contract the virus die. While that is a low risk, it’s higher than the regular flu virus, which has a mortality rate of .095 percent. However, you have a much, much higher risk of contracting the flu than you do of even coming in contact with the coronavirus.

It is understandable when people get worried about new illnesses. News can be salacious and scaremongering. The word “pandemic” makes all of us pause and pay attention. And while it isn’t yet officially a pandemic, doctors say it will become one. As of writing this, there are 11 cases in the U.S. While that number will continue to grow, the panic people are feeling is radically overblown according to doctors. People are avoiding public spaces. This has caused significant problems for retailers and restaurants. Avoiding public spaces in affected areas makes sense. If a large number of people are infected, your risk of coming into contact with the virus can be high. However, in the U.S., your odds of becoming ill are negligible.

Additionally, people are stocking up on face masks. While face mask on a person who is ill can protect others from infection, a healthy person wearing a mask doesn’t make much of an impact. A sick person may cough into a mask and prevent most of the germs from reaching others. If you are healthy, the mask doesn’t stop you from breathing ambient air unless you have a tight seal on the edges. While it might stop the spread, it won’t do much if you are trying to avoid contracting the virus. And, everyone stockpiling masks may actually cause a more substantial health risk. A shortage of masks could put health care professionals at risk — doctors and nurses may have to go without as medical suppliers are running out. It is dangerous for our hospitals to run out of protective gear. Doctors and nurses are far more likely to come into contact with the virus than most of us. And, once doctors and nurses become ill, that puts all their already unwell patients into contact with the virus.  

Meanwhile, the flu has already caused 10,000 deaths this year. While the flu is far less deadly than coronavirus, it is also far more prevalent. Nineteen million people have contracted the flu this winter. Protecting yourself from the flu, not coronavirus should be your priority.

Speaking about the fear around coronavirus, Dr. Jennifer Lighter of NYU Langone Health said, “In the U.S., it’s really a fear-based on media and this being something new. When, in reality, people can take measures to protect themselves against the flu, which is here and prevalent and has already killed 10,000 people.” Moreover, she explained that the coronavirus might not be as deadly as believed. “I think we’re going to find that the mortality number is going to be lower. There is more than likely many times that number of people that have mild (cases) or are asymptomatic.” There is a very high possibility that people who have the coronavirus but aren’t as ill are being misdiagnosed. It may be that the fatality numbers are skewed because we only recognize the very worst cases.

If you haven’t had a flu shot, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s right for you. Take care of your health with nutrition, sleep, exercise and staying warm. Keep away from people you know are ill. And, stop worrying about the coronavirus. Your chances of getting anywhere near the coronavirus are slim to none, but the flu is all around us.
February 05, 2020
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