Does the newest virus keep you up at night?

Published 7:00 pm Wednesday, February 12, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta announced that the newest coronavirus now has an official name: COVID-19.

Thought to have jumped species from bat to human and establish its first foothold in the city of Wuhan in Central China’s Hubei province, the COVID-19 joins SARS and MERS as one of the newer human coronaviruses.

Since the outbreak, 420 people in the U.S. have been suspected of having COVID-19 and investigated by the CDC. Thirteen came back positive for the virus; 347 were negative; and as of Wednesday, results were pending for another 60. While those 420 people were investigated in 41 U.S. states and territories, confirmed cases have been confined to six states: Washington, California, Arizona, Wisconsin, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Though COVID-19 dominates the news cycles, that’s because the virus’ spread is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation. It makes for dramatic footage to show people quarantined aboard a cruise ship, unable to go home until each passenger is free and clear of the virus.

But does the focus on COVID-19 and its lack of appearance in North Carolina lull people into a false sense of security about another virus, one that’s far more familiar?

So far, COVID-19 has killed approximately 1,100 worldwide since the beginning of January. Compare that to the 12,000 people who have died from flu between Oct. 1, 2019 and the beginning of February — and that’s in the U.S. alone. During this year’s flu season, which has not yet peaked, more than 22 million Americans have contracted the virus, leading to more than 10 million medical visits and 210,000 hospitalizations.

That’s a lot — certainly far more than COVID-19.

It’s understandable that people are concerned about this new virus, but the old viruses should be just as much, if not more, of a concern. If the newest coronavirus keeps you up at night, then do something about it: wash your hands frequently and disinfect common surfaces — it might just prevent the flu.