The coronavirus outbreak that began in late December in China has been getting a lot of headlines. The numbers are big: About 72,000 cases and nearly 1,800 deaths, as of Feb. 17. About 99 percent of the cases are in mainland China, as are all but five of the deaths. There are 15 cases and no deaths in the United States.
The numbers for the flu season in the U.S. that started in late September are even bigger: 26 million cases, 250,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths through the first week of February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Kelli Wells, Florida Blue’s senior medical director for medical affairs, said you’re far more likely to get the flu in the U.S. than the coronavirus. The virus was named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization.
She said the flu and the coronavirus are respiratory illnesses with symptoms like coughing, difficulty breathing and fever. There’s no vaccine for COVID-19, so the best way to protect yourself is to avoid being exposed. That includes following the U.S. State Department’s advisory to not travel to China, Wells said.
Getting a flu shot is the best way to keep you from getting the flu. It also helps keep you from spreading it to others. Flu shots are recommended for children as young as six months. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, there’s still time because officials say the season could last until May. It takes about two weeks to build your immunity after getting the shot.
Florida Blue members can get their flu shot at no additional cost. BlueMedicare HMO and BlueMedicare PPO members can receive a $20 gift card as part of HealthyBlue Rewards.*
Wells also suggests following general prevention practices when it comes to the flu and COVID-19. Those include washing your hands often, especially after touching shared surfaces; keeping your distance from others; and avoiding sharing space with someone who is sick.
* Program restrictions and limitations may apply. For full details on program rules visit floridablue.com/healthyblue or call 1-855-861-9400. Participation in HealthyBlue is voluntary and offered at no cost to you.