Coronavirus outbreak: In the panic over new threat let's not forget that the flu has killed 10,000 this season

According to an estimate prepared by CDC, there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths in the US this season, while detected coronavirus cases are 11

                            Coronavirus outbreak: In the panic over new threat let's not forget that the flu has killed 10,000 this season
Representational (Getty Images)

The new coronavirus is deadly, but Americans face a much bigger and dangerous threat: The Flu. According to current estimates, at least 19 million people in the US have been sickened by the flu and there have been 10,000 deaths so far. The confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus infection have been 11 so far in the US.

The total number of influenza-related pediatric deaths during the 2019-2020 season stands at 68, with 14 new pediatric deaths being reported during the week ending January 25, show numbers released by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 19 million flu illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations and 10,000 deaths from flu. Pneumonia and influenza mortality has been low, but 68 influenza-associated deaths in children have been reported so far this season,” says CDC.

Latest numbers released by China's National Health Commission show that it has received 20,438 reports of confirmed cases and 425 deaths within the country. Two deaths have occurred outside of China so far as well-- one in the Philippines and the second in Hong Kong. 

Influenza-like illness activity level indicator in the US. (Source: CDC)

The US was hit badly by the flu two years ago, killing 79,000 people. Health experts say that the percentage of deaths attributed to influenza and pneumonia is 6.7% currently, which is below the epidemic threshold of 7.2%.

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by viruses. Symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. Illness typically lasts two to seven days and often puts healthy people in bed for days. 

According to the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the flu virus does have the potential to cause severe illness and death, especially in the very young, very old, or those who have underlying health conditions. “This is a great time to get the flu vaccine to prevent yourself and your loved ones from becoming sick before flu activity increases further,” Dr. Pedati had said in a statement after Iowa announced its first flu-related deaths of the 2019-2020 influenza season in November 2019. 

While visits to healthcare providers for influenza-like illness increased to 5.7% in the week ending January 25, from 5.1% the previous week, all regions remained above their baselines. Experts report that the number of jurisdictions that have seen high influenza-like illness went up from 37 to 44. Further, the number of jurisdictions reporting regional or widespread influenza activity increased to 51 during the week ending January 25. 

This map indicates geographic spread and does not measure the severity of influenza activity.
(Source: CDC)

The overall hospitalization rate for this season increased to 29.7 per 100,000 population, which is similar to what has been seen during recent previous influenza seasons at this time of year. Rates in children and young adults are higher than at this time in recent seasons. For this season, 53% of influenza-positive specimens reported by public health laboratories were among persons less than 25 years of age and only 12% were from persons age 65 and older. “Nationwide, during week 4 (ending January 25), 5.7% of patient visits reported through the US Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet) were due to influenza-like illness. This percentage is above the national baseline of 2.4%,” says the report. 

The highest rate of hospitalization is among adults, 65 years or older, followed by children aged 0-4 years and adults aged 50-64 years.

Influenza-associated hospitalizations in the US. (Source: CDC)

The predominant virus varies by region. “Nationally influenza B/ Victoria viruses have been reported more frequently than other influenza viruses this season. However, during recent weeks, influenza A(H1N1) pdm09 viruses have been reported more frequently than B/ Victoria viruses,” say researchers. 

The CDC recommends that essentially everyone over six months of age should receive the flu vaccine. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for the body to achieve full benefit against the flu virus. “People who have not gotten a flu vaccine for the current season and are traveling to parts of the world where influenza activity is ongoing should get a flu vaccine to protect themselves during their trip. This is particularly important for people at high risk of flu-related complications,” says CDC. 

Disclaimer : This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.