Worried about coronavirus? ‘Fear the flu’ instead

As many as 20,000 have died from the flu in the U.S. this flu season.
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Passengers wear protective face masks at the...
FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 file photo, Passengers wear protective face masks at the departure hall of the high speed train station in Hong Kong. Fear about the effects of a new virus found in China is spreading faster through financial markets around the world than the sickness itself. U.S. stocks fell to their biggest weekly loss since early October on worries that the new coronavirus could ultimately hurt travel and global economic growth. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)((Source: AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File))
Updated: Jan. 29, 2020 at 1:57 PM EST
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) -The uncertainty of the coronavirus continues to flood headlines around the world which may be causing unnecessary fear and anxiety according to an expert with University Hospitals (UH) in Cleveland.

I do not want to minimize the potential problems should the coronavirus situation evolve in a dramatic way, but the average persons in the U.S. should be worried about influenza,” according to Dr. Elie Saade, Medical Director for Infection Control for UH.

When looking at the numbers alone, the flu is by far a bigger issue than the coronavirus.

According to Johns Hopkins University’s real-time tracker of the newest coronavirus, at the time of this article there are 6,057 confirmed cases in the world and 132 deaths.

The overwhelming majority of those numbers are from mainland China where the spread of the virus began.

Those numbers are minuscule when compared to the flu.

In the United States alone from Oct. 1, 2019 to Jan. 18, 2020 the CDC reports the flu has infected 15–21 million people, with 140,000–250,000 hospitalizations and between 8,200–20,000 deaths.

Further testing and confirmation over the next few months will give the CDC a more exact range of the numbers above.

During the 2018-2019 flu season in the U.S. there were 143 pediatric deaths, which is more than all of the deaths so far during the coronavirus outbreak in China.

“In a few words, “fear the flu,” and get the shot,” Saade said. “The flu is extremely more common, especially in the United States.”

Saade said anxiety over coronavirus is partially because of the unknown, but also media coverage showing healthcare workers in “spacesuits," reports of hospitals being built in six days, and large scale travel restrictions.

There is something different about the coronavirus making it hard for people to get a grasp on the entire situation and that’s time.

“With an incubation period of up to 14 days, cases reported now may have been infected more than two weeks ago, and do not reflect the containment efforts that have been made since,” Saade said. “With every person infecting on average two people, although that is debatable, a simple mathematic calculation shows that an acceleration is natural, especially before containment efforts are showing their effects.”

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