The coronavirus outbreak is concerning, but flu season is much more dangerous | Michigan Radio

The coronavirus outbreak is concerning, but flu season is much more dangerous

Jan 27, 2020

Children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are much more likely to have complications from the flu.
Credit Adobe Stock

Panic over the spread of coronavirus has reached Michigan. Last week, three cases from Michigan were sent to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to be tested for the virus but they were all negative. A fourth test was sent Monday.

81 people have died worldwide, there are currently five confirmed cases nationwide, and no U.S. deaths.

That's an incredibly low number compared to the spread of influenza. 39 children in the U.S. have died from influenza this flu season, two of those in Michigan. 

Hospitals are not required to immediately report flu-related deaths for adults, but estimates show that more than 1,300 people died from the flu complications during the 2018-19 season in Michigan alone. Nationwide, the CDC estimates that over 34,000 Americans died from the flu.

That's not to say the coronavirus outbreak isn't concerning. Many people have traveled in and out of the region where it appears to have originated, increasing the chances that it will spread. Plus, there is no vaccine or known cure.

But influenza is far more deadly, and there is a safe, effective vaccine that could stop the flu from spreading.

Still, only 46% of Michiganders got their flu vaccine last year. That's less than the national average of 49%. In some counties, the average was as low as 10%. And while vaccines don't guarantee that you won't get the flu, they do reduce the chance that the flu will kill you. The vaccine also reduces the chance that healthy, low-risk adults will pass the disease onto more vulnerable people.

Influenza is a common and extremely contagious respiratory disease caused by different kinds of influenza virus. Symptoms include fever, body aches, fatigue, cough, runny nose, and sore throat. It can also lead to vomiting and diarrhea, but that is more likely for children than adults.

Cases can range from mild to severe. Children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of complications than others. 

While it's unclear how long the risk for coronavirus will last, the flu season spans through May. Flu vaccines are still available, so check with your physician for details or see where you can get your flu shot here

This post has been updated to reflect that the number of deaths from the coronavirus has risen to 81. We previously reported 56. 

A second update has been made because the three coronavirus tests sent to the CDC came back negative Monday.

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