If you’re worried about coronavirus, you should be more worried about the flu, and take the same precautions, including a flu shot

Food and Drug Administration photo illustration
Worried about the novel coronavirus spreading in the United States? Take the same precautions that you would against influenza, which is twice as bad as it was in Kentucky last year and is a much bigger threat, having killed 66 Kentuckians.
That’s the advice from the Kentucky Medical Association, its foundation and a statewide health foundation, in the wake of the Feb. 25 warning from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that coronavirus outbreaks are expected in the United States.

“While novel coronavirus presents a low risk currently to the majority of populations within the U.S., we do know that the virus can spread rapidly and is transmitted primarily through tiny air droplets and close contact with an infected person,” said Dr. Brent Wright, president of KMA and board chair of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

“The good news is we already know how to prevent the spread of such a virus, since protocols for it are nearly identical to those for the flu, which remains a much greater threat to public health currently. . . . While coronavirus is scary, we can be confident that we are doing everything we can to prevent it by treating the threat of the virus the same manner we do the flu.”

The flu vaccine won’t work against the novel coronavirus, but having the flu weakens the immune system, leaving unvaccinated people more susceptible to contracting other illnesses, including coronavirus. “It isn’t too late to get a flu shot, even if you’ve already had a bout of flu this season,” the foundation said in a press release with the KMA and its foundation, the Kentucky Foundation for Medical Care. Flu season usually runs into May.

“Symptoms of coronavirus also closely resemble influenza, so patients are encouraged to consult with their doctor if they are experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath,” the release says. “Health officials have also emphasized that proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of both novel coronavirus and influenza.”

“Washing your hands with warm soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, as frequently as possible, helps prevent the spread of germs more than anything else,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “Covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough and staying away from others when you are sick are also common-sense practices we should be utilizing during all seasons, but particularly to prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu and coronavirus.”
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