Here's why COVID-19 is causing more concern than the flu

Posted at 10:16 AM, Mar 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-18 12:16:08-04

GREAT FALLS — A database kept by Johns Hopkins showed on Wednesday morning that at least 6,496 people were confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19 and at least 114 people have died in connection with the disease.

Meanwhile, tnfluenza infects millions of people in the United States every year and kills as many as 60,000.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been anywhere and everywhere over the past couple of weeks. It has undoubtedly changed life as we know it, and we can only hope that those changes are short-term.

Despite the widespread panic, if you look at the numbers -- and the numbers only -- we should be much more afraid of Influenza and the fact that it keeps coming back year after year and infecting millions.

So why aren’t we?

“Both have the potential to become a pandemic,” said Cascade City-County Health Department Health Officer Trisha Gardner. “Right now, only COVID-19 is a pandemic. However, it has been identified as that way, and people are understandably frightened because we have seen the impact this disease is having on other countries.

“There's still so much we don't know about COVID-19, and that's why we urge you to take whatever steps you are necessary to protect your health and the health of those around you,” she added.

Simply put, we know about the flu. We know that if you get the flu, antiviral medications can address symptoms and sometimes shorten the duration of the illness. We know that that flu vaccine is available to anyone and is an effective way to prevent some of the most dangerous type of influenza or reduce the severity of the symptoms.

We know that people get the flu and survive. Not everyone survives, and while the death rate numbers vary, the CDC estimates that up to 31 million people caught the flu this season, and the number of deaths could be as high as 30,000. Even if we were at the top end of that range, right at 30,000, that would still put the death rate at 0.097%.

That is known. The flu is known. We don’t like the flu, but we’re used to it. It’s the mystery of COVID-19 that seems to be instilling fear in people. While the world’s top scientists and health officials are working on a cure and a vaccine for Coronavirus, it’s not clear how far away we are from that.

For right now, there has been some concern that hospitals and other healthcare facilities might not be able to care for people with the flu as effectively because of their focus on this pandemic. Trisha says that’s not the case.

She did say, however that the CCHD has seen people coming in with the flu that are scared they might have Coronavirus.

“We are seeing a lot of people confusing that because there is so much crossover,” she explained. “What we recommend is talk with your healthcare provider. Call those lines that are available. They’ll help walk you through and really assess what your potential risk is and if COVID-19 testing is appropriate.”

Make sure to keep an eye on the websites and social media pages of all the healthcare organizations in your area for updates on business closures, health tips, and other news about the COVID-19 pandemic.

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses, you can take the following steps to protect yourself and your family:

  • Stay home if you’re sick,
  • Cover your cough and sneezes with the crook of your elbow or a tissue
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and wash your hands frequently
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe
  • Call ahead to a healthcare professional if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness, such as cough or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or if you live in or have recently traveled to an area with ongoing spread. Tell your healthcare professional about your recent travel or contact.

Click here for the latest information about COVID-19 at the CDC website.