Coronavirus terrifies us, but another virus has already killed 6,000 in US

Influenza rarely gets the sort of attention that coronavirus has, even though flu has already sickened at least 13 million Americans this winter and killed 6,600 people. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 61,000 Americans.

There’s a deadly virus spreading from state to state. It preys on the most vulnerable, striking the sick and the old without mercy. In just the past few months, it has claimed the lives of at least 39 children.

The virus is influenza, and it poses a far greater threat to Americans than the coronavirus from China that has made headlines around the world.

“When we think about the relative danger of this new coronavirus and influenza, there’s just no comparison,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. “Coronavirus will be a blip on the horizon in comparison. The risk is trivial.”

The coronavirus outbreak, which originated last month in the Chinese city of Wuhan, should be taken seriously. The virus can cause pneumonia and is blamed for more than 800 illnesses and 26 deaths. British researchers estimate the virus has infected 4,000 people.

A second person in the U.S. who visited China has been diagnosed with the Wuhan virus, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday. Public health workers are monitoring 63 additional patients from 22 states.

Influenza rarely gets this sort of attention, even though it kills more Americans each year than any other virus, said Dr. Peter Hotez, a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Influenza has already sickened at least 13 million Americans this winter, hospitalizing 120,000 and killing 6,600, according to the CDC. And flu season hasn’t even peaked. In a bad year, the flu kills up to 61,000 Americans.

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