(CBS) – As anxiety about the new novel coronavirus grows, President Trump drew criticism from some health experts for comparing the illness to the common flu. He tweeted yesterday, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”.
CBS News Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Jon LaPook says that there is no doubt that the common flu is deadly as millions of people do get it every year and thousands do die from it. However, come spring, we know the flu season will go down and it will stop. We also know that Tamiflu can prevent and treat the flu. With the coronavirus, it’s a new novel coronavirus and we do not know what’s going to happen when warmer weather comes; it may die down, it may not. There is also no vaccine and no treatment. And unlike the flu, where we may have some immunity, with the new novel coronavirus, no one has immunity.
Dr. LaPook also says it’s too early to discuss the death toll as we’re seeing mortality rates less than one percent in South Korea where they are testing a lot of people, almost two-hundred thousand, “a lot of it has to do with how extensive the testing is and where they are catching the people (with coronavirus)”. If you are not doing a lot of testing, the mortality rate is going to be higher. If you’re testing hundreds of thousands of people that do have the virus, like South Korea, the mortality rate is going to be much lower.
LaPook also adds that the flu and coronavirus symptoms overlap and that’s why testing is important. And as we do more testing, the number of coronavirus cases will likely rise however, LaPook says that the mortality rate will also most likely drop.
Dr. William Jaquis, president of American College of Emergency Physicians, says “We are in the middle of flu season, which means emergency departments are already strained. To make sure that everyone can get the care they need, it’s important to know when to go to the emergency department if you think you have COVID-19,” said
Older patients and those with chronic or pre-existing conditions have the highest risk of serious cases or complications. If you think you are sick with COVID-19, consider your symptoms. Call your doctor if you’ve been in contact with someone who already has COVID-19 or has traveled to an affected region and with 14 days you develop a fever, cough or shortness of breath.
If your symptoms are mild, contact your primary care physician to discuss your best options for care. Call 911 or visit your closest emergency department if:
- You’re experiencing a medical emergency,
- You’re sick enough that you need to go to the hospital, especially if you recently started experiencing shortness of breath, or
- You’re sick and you are a high-risk individual, such as an older patient or a person with an already weakened immune system.