The novel coronavirus outbreak may seem scary, but the flu remains a greater threat in the U.S.
The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus that causes respiratory illnesses with flu-like symptoms such as runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, and fever. The outbreak originated in Wuhan, China and has since spread to many countries around the world. There have only been 6 confirmed cases in the US, particularly in California, Washington, Arizona, and Illinois. No deaths have been reported yet in the U.S.
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the outbreak a “serious public health threat,” it also said the general American public are unlikely to be exposed to this virus and the immediate health risk is considered low at this time.
However, the U.S. is also in the middle of flu season. According to the CDC, since 2010, the flu has caused 9-45 million illnesses per year, 140,000-810,000 hospitalizations per year, and 12,000-61,000 deaths per year in the U.S. So far in this season, there have been 19-26 million illnesses, 180,000-310,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000-25,000 deaths due to influenza. Americans are far more likely to get infected with the flu than with 2019-nCoV.
The best way to protect yourself against the flu is getting vaccinated. It is not too late to get your flu shot. Other important strategies, which also help protect against the coronavirus, include washing your hands often with soap and water or hand sanitizer, covering your coughs and sneezes with your elbow, and cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as countertops and cell phones regularly.