The United States is right in the peak of flu season as the Wuhan coronavirus dominates the headlines. The flu itself kills tens of thousands of Americans every year, and symptoms are very similar to the coronavirus.
Get the flu shot and wash your hands.
Those are recommendations from Lieutenant Governor Josh Green, a practicing physician.
“I was on call this weekend and I saw as many people with the flu as I saw with panic attacks when they came into the hospital for care,” Green said.
Fear abounds social media about the coronavirus, but green says with no cases in Hawaii protecting yourself from the flu right now is the best way to stay healthy from the disease.
“I want people to be assured, I want people to get their flu shot,” Green said.
“I want them to wash their hands but we don’t have any cases now. There will be a lot of flu, there will be a lot of colds it’s cold and flu season. But you do not have coronavirus right now if you have those symptoms. In all likelihood, you just have the flu.”
Influenza killed about 34,000 people in the United States alone in the 2018-2019 flu season. The year before the virus killed approximately 61,000 people in the US. This year the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 10,000-25,000 deaths since October.
As of Tuesday coronavirus has killed 493 people worldwide.
“The flu has a rate of fatality of 1 out of 1000,” Green said.
“If people are older or immunocomprimised 1 in 1000 will die. Coronavirus and these other viruses are much much less common, just a couple of thousand cases versus millions of cases of flu. People can die from the flu and maybe 2-3 percent might die from coronavirus so it’s more lethal but very rare.”
That’s not to say the preparation for coronavirus is unwarranted. The state set up a quarantine site on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for any US citizens traveling from Hubei province in China diverted to Honolulu.
Green toured the new quarantine facility Tuesday.
“It’s ready,” Green said. “We have a capacity for up to 120 people if god forbid we have to quarantine a large number of individuals. We are not expecting that and we also have no cases in Hawaii, but these kinds of viruses can be very dynamic internationally and we have to be ready.”
Green went into detail about how the process works if an infected
“If someone came over and we determined after a long plane ride that they actually were coronavirus positive we would corral everyone from that plane and we would take them into quarantine. We are taking that precaution but right now we haven’t had that case and there are no flights coming in from China so it’s so unlikely that someone would come over with the coronavirus. If however, that happened we’ll take the full precaution and that’s what we expressed to the federal government. That’s why we said we don’t want people to go to hotels we don’t want people to expose everybody else. And also if you have a large number of people like the people who are being repatriated the thousand people from China, we want them to go to larger military installations which is what happened. That’s what we did. If we did get a person that was sick on a plane. We would first assess them very carefully because they very likely didn’t have anything else. If they had the flu no worry if they had regular cold no worry. We can’t test quickly yet for coronavirus. That test will be here in the state anytime in the next week or two but until then it’s a longer process.”