Coronavirus, Day 25 – But The Flu…

April 10, 2020 3:15pm
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One of the most common arguments against all of the measures being taken against COVID-19 is citing how many deaths we see from the flu every single year.

And I’ll admit that a number like 35,000 Americans dying from the flu gives me pause because that sounds awful. Of course, 2.8 million people dying each year in general sounds awful, but let’s talk about the flu because I’ve given it a lot of thought trying to rationalize the real difference between fighting this Coronavirus today and the seasonal flu…

Duration of Impact
For starters, let’s consider that flu season is typically 4-6 months long, whereas right now we’ve been facing COVID-19 in the States for a little over three weeks.

Just at a glance, this sounds like a huge factor in why our medical system can handle the seasonal flu without having a run on ventilators like we’re seeing today simply because the regular flu is spread out over a much longer timeframe. If we compare stats, we’ve already seen 18,000 deaths in three weeks compared to those 35,000 in four to six months.

Conservatively speaking, that’s an average of 857 deaths per day for COVID-19 and 291 deaths per day for a four-month flu season. Wow!

Vaccines and the Lack Thereof
Next, let’s consider the impact of vaccines specifically on the front lines to protect doctors and nurses from also contracting and spreading diseases … which has been a problem particularly in NYC where we’re seeing caregivers catching the virus from the same people that they’re trying to help.

We don’t really see this with the regular flu because at my wife’s hospital, for example, come flu season every employee in the hospital is either required to get a flu shot or wear a mask for the entirety of flu season!

That’s a level of protection lacking for the doctors and nurses facing Coronavirus today because we simply don’t have a vaccine ready yet.

Stacking Numbers
And another point, along the lines of protection, is the devastating PPE shortage that hospitals have been fighting because sure, they might normally stock enough masks and gowns and whatnot to manage the seasonal flu, but the regular flu didn’t just go away when Coronavirus came to town.

So the result is a system that’s already supporting a regular flu season then also thrust into a brand new and very different flu pandemic, and the lack of adequate supplies to protect workers and even family members and other patients becomes painfully and quite dangerously clear.

Other Considerations
Couple these with other factors that Coronavirus has shown us including a longer incubation period, carriers with mild to no symptoms, and just being something new that the medical field isn’t used to dealing with I think puts it on a much different level than the regular, old flu.

One terrifying story described a patient’s lung tissue literally being torn away by the virus … something that the flu doesn’t do! So there’s a lot to be said for simply dealing with the unknown in the middle of all of these other factors.

So no, we don’t shut down the economy and close schools and workplaces and see this dramatic response to the seasonal flu … because it seems to reason that what we’re facing with Coronavirus is an entirely different beast altogether.

Is the fact that we vaccinate for the flu enough to counter the need for the drastic social distancing being exercised today? Probably not entirely, but all of these pieces of the puzzle together make for a compelling argument as to why it’s not wise to be so quick to quantify COVID-19 with the flu that we face every year like clockwork.

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