Coronavirus May Be in the Spotlight, but Flu Poses a Clear and Present Danger in U.S.
管家婆精选四消期期准With illnesses topping 29 million and related deaths numbering 16,000, the flu remains a high-priority public health concern.
Coronavirus may be grabbing all the headlines, but the flu continues to a bigger worry in the United States, causing far more illnesses and deaths.
While the novel coronavirus (now officially called COVID-19) has killed more than 2,700 people and infected more than 80,000 around the world, the United States has largely been spared so far by comparison.
管家婆精选四消期期准The United States now has 35 confirmed cases, the .
“Even though the number of confirmed cases is very small, coronavirus has blown influenza off the news pages, so people are more interested in it,” says , a professor of preventive medicine in the department of health policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. “But in terms of real hazard, the likelihood of making you sick, there is no comparison. Flu wins in a walk.”
Millions Sick, Thousands Dead, and Children Face a Higher Risk
管家婆精选四消期期准The estimates that so far this season there have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 related deaths in the United States.
While the numbers may seem incredibly high, they are not out of the ordinary. The CDC reports that the hospitalization rate is similar to that of recent seasons, and overall deaths related to flu have been low.
管家婆精选四消期期准“I would say it been a busy year, but it’s what we expect to see,” says , a professor of pediatrics specializing in infectious diseases and of health research and policy with Stanford Medicine in Palo Alto, California.
管家婆精选四消期期准The season certainly pales in comparison with the 2009–10 pandemic, which may have led to deaths of more than 200,000 individuals worldwide, according to a 2013 study in .
管家婆精选四消期期准The virus, however, has been hitting children and young adults harder than usual this season. Their hospitalization rate has been above normal compared with recent seasons, and a total of 105 children have died from flu-related illness thus far, according to the .
管家婆精选四消期期准“The flu strains this year [B/Victoria and A(H1N1)] appear to have a predilection for children and young adults,” says Dr. Schaffner.
On February 16, Matthew Wzorek, a second grader in Eastern Pennsylvania, .
Dr. Maldonado warns that the virus can be just as devastating to healthy kids as it is to those who are already struggling with chronic illness or other underlying conditions. She says that about half the pediatric deaths have been among children who were perfectly well before getting the flu, so parents need to take extra care.
管家婆精选四消期期准Maldonado advises parents to teach their children —coughing into your sleeve, making sure to clean your hands after shaking hands or touching surfaces, and not going to school or work when sick.
She adds that face masks, , may not do much good in protecting you from flu or coronavirus for that matter.
“The single most important thing any parent can do is to make sure their children are vaccinated,” says Schaffner.
The recommends that all people ages six months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The majority of cases occur in those who have not been vaccinated.
Coping With an Unusual Flu Season
This year, the flu got off to an early start. Typically, flu starts kicking in during October, but the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) reported that of patient visits in the first week of September 2019 were due to influenza-like illness.
管家婆精选四消期期准Also, the season has been unique because the B strain, which usually doesn’t cause big outbreaks and is typically more prominent toward the end of the flu season, dominated early on. Currently, with continued increases in the A strain in recent weeks.
管家婆精选四消期期准“Usually we see the A virus first and the B virus later, but this year is very unusual,” says Maldonado. “We have had a B virus surge early on, which I personally have never seen before, and then we see the A virus coming in.”
The flu season so far has had relatively a lower impact among older persons, who are usually the ones most dominantly hit, according to Schaffner.
And the Season Is Not Over Yet
管家婆精选四消期期准While most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, activity can last as late as May, .
“The flu usually abates in March, but last year it went into April. So it could continue to go on for a bit,” says Schaffner.
Although it’s late in the season, a pulmonary specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, advises the public to still get the flu shot.
“It’s never too late to get vaccinated,” says Dr. Horovitz.
管家婆精选四消期期准This week, the released a report finding that the effectiveness of the seasonal influenza vaccine for preventing medically attended, laboratory-confirmed influenza virus infection was 45 percent overall and 55 percent in children.
“It’s not a perfect vaccine, but it’s the best we have,” says Schaffner.
Still, fewer than half of Americans get the flu vaccine, .
“Some people think the flu is like a cold—you’re walking around with a stuffy head and a runny nose,” Maldonado says. “But the flu is devastating. It makes you really sick.”