Coronavirus v. Influenza: What’s The Real Concern?

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Felicity Wenger, Editor-in-Chief

The coronavirus has been dominating the news lately and seems to be a constant topic of discussion. People are afraid for their safety. However, the more prominent issue they should be focused on is right under their noses: the flu. 

Influenza tends to be overlooked, especially considering how long ago the flu epidemic began. However, the 1918 flu pandemic was massive, resulting in 50 million deaths worldwide. While this number has obviously been reduced through the years, about 56,000 yearly deaths worldwide are still due to the flu. Not to mention, another 200,000 people on top of that are hospitalized annually. Luckily, we now have flu vaccines to help with this epidemic.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), everyone above the age of six months old should get their flu shot. Unless a rare medical disease or allergy prevents it, flu vaccines should be injected every year. The RNA virus continuously evolves from year to year, meaning you cannot rely solely on your immune system to care for you, as it isn’t used to the new mutation of the virus.

Three different types of the flu exist, including influenza A, B and C. Type C seldom causes symptoms harsher than the common cold and not many people contract it, while types A and B are the viruses that dictate what we call “flu season.” Type A mutates much quicker than type B, but both types are extremely similar and if left untreated can be life-threatening. 

Many people avoid getting their flu shot every year for fear of getting the flu, and while there are factors to consider, getting the flu from a flu shot is a myth, according to the CDC. Actually, contracting the virus from the vaccination would be impossible due to the fact that the shot contains an inactivated virus. With this being said, timing is everything when getting your flu vaccine. Making sure you don’t get the shot too early can be crucial to avoiding the virus near the end of its reign. Along with this, the vaccine takes about two weeks for your body to get used to, so contracting the virus directly after getting your flu shot has no relation to the shot itself. Lastly, it’s important to note the vaccine doesn’t completely prevent you from getting the virus, but will most likely weaken the symptoms it causes. This problem may worsen if the vaccine isn’t an adequate match. Because scientists have to predict the virus’s mutation prior to the actual spread of the virus, the vaccine may be just a little off and not be as effective as it was in prior years. However, even with these factors in place, the flu virus has been proven by the CDC to save lives.

However, so far, no medication has been approved to treat the coronavirus. In fact, there’s still a multitude of unknown information about the virus, and this may be what scares people most. However, we do know that the term “coronavirus” refers to a multitude of viruses, but COVID-19 is actually the virus taking over the media. Broken down, the ‘CO’ stands for corona, the ‘VI’ for virus, the ‘D’ for disease, and the ‘19’ refers to 2019. 

The virus may be difficult to detect as the symptoms are very similar to that of any respiratory illness. However, certain severe cases can result in kidney or cardiac failure. These symptoms tend to show up around two to fourteen days after contraction of the virus. 

As far as the disease’s origin goes, the CDC believes we somehow contracted the coronavirus from animals. Multiple other forms of coronaviruses only affect animals, however when they get passed on, they can sometimes begin to be spread among humans themselves, which the CDC claims to be the case with COVID-19. Influenza A can be carried by animals as well, but humans seldom contract the disease directly from animals.

As of March 3, 122 cases have been reported in America, including nine deaths, all in Washington State. There have not been any cases reported in Kansas yet, but again, a lot of mystery still surrounds the virus. The CDC claims the virus still doesn’t pose much of a threat to the United States at this point, but they have predicted a continued increase of cases in the recent future, especially in public locations like schools and workplaces. To avoid the virus, or really any sickness, it’s extremely important to wash your hands, cover your mouth when sneezing or coughing, avoid close contact as much as possible, and thoroughly cook raw food like meat or eggs. In closing, COVID-19 remains a bit of a mystery, but currently does not pose as much of a threat to us as the media may portray. However, it never hurts to remain informed on the situation.