The Flu is a Much Bigger Threat Than the Coronavirus, Doctors Tell Parents

The Coronavirus is making headlines, but it’s the flu that should be concerning parents.

February 08, 2020
By: Amanda Mushro


Photo by: Tim Hawley

Tim Hawley

While headlines about the Coronavirus spreading through China are shocking and scary, doctors in America want to make sure parents are also looking out for a greater threat that is already here: the flu.

As of right now, the only people infected with the Coronavirus in the United States are those who have traveled to regions in China where the virus is present. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 19 million people in the U.S. have gotten sick with flu this season. More than 180,000 Americans have been hospitalized, and more than 10,000 people have died from their viral infection.

While the spread of the Coronavirus in America could change, doctors want to make sure that parents are taking steps to protect themselves and their kids from the flu.

"Last year, we had 34,000 deaths from flu," epidemiologist Brandon Brown of the University of California, Riverside told NPR. The CDC reported that the flu is responsible for somewhere between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths each year, "and this is just in the United States," Brown added.

So, what can parents and kids do to keep themselves protected? The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself, doctors agree, and a good handwashing is extremely important for prevention. However, a quick rinse won’t do the trick. Instead, the CDC says you should lather and rinse for at least 20 seconds. A good reminder for kids and parents is to sing the Happy Birthday song twice. It’s also best to get into the habit of washing your hands more frequently, including before and after handling food, after using the bathroom, after petting an animal, after sneezing or coughing and after caring for someone who is sick.

"Our hands are one of the main ways we can transmit a virus," Brown said. "We shake other people's hands, we touch surfaces, open doors."

So, encourage your kids to not only wash their hands but keep their hands away from their face or out of their mouths—which we know can seem impossible at times. Also, practicing coughing and sneezing into your elbow can help your family stay healthy this flu season.