Coronavirus concerns are valid, and the contagion and level of disease severity is a large concern for our nation and the world. Like MERS and SARS, the 2019-nCov in Wulhan, China initially appeared to be spread from animals (camels, cattle, cats and bats) to people. More recently, however, person-to person spread via respiratory droplets seems to be the mainstay of transmissibility. How easily the virus spreads person-to-person is still in question. The CDC is taking this public health threat seriously and the medical community will soon understand the ease of transmissibility and disease severity (unfortunately) as the infection spreads across communities.
In the meantime, this year’s flu virus should be higher on our list of health concerns. The CDC reports 15 million cases with up to 140,000 hospitalizations and 8200 deaths. More than 50% of those affected are in people under age 25. The hospitalization rate is 24.1 per 100,000 people. Mortality is estimated at 2.0 per 100,000 (CDC).
Only 50% of children age 6 months to 17 years receive the flu shot while approximately 68.7% of adults age 65 and older receive the vaccine. These two groups are among the most vulnerable to flu-related complications.
Last year (2018), approximately 80.000 people in the U.S. died of flu-related complications (CDC). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the flu virus is responsible for up to 5 million cases of severe illness globally and kills up to 650,000 people annually.
There is no doubt that this new coronavirus 2019-nCov could cause significant morbidity and mortality if allowed to multiply among people. In the meantime, managing current disease contagion by minimizing spread of this year’s flu virus should be prioritized. Flu shots are still available at your local medical clinics and pharmacies.
*MERS: Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome
*SARS: Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome
CDC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention