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Amid coronavirus concerns, why getting a flu shot advised

March 1, 2020


Federal health officials
warn this week businesses, hospitals and communities
across the country should prepare for a possible
Coronavirus outbreak. The Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention say the immediate risk remains
low, but its ongoing spread around the globe makes the
virus harder to contain. We learn more about the
concern and what precautions people should take
from Michael Worobey, an expert in epidemiology at
the University of Arizona. – This virus is related, not
just to human Coronaviruses that cause the common cold,
but also even more closely related to SARS, which
people might remember from 2003, 2004. SARS had a 10%
case fatality rate, which is just devastating. This virus has a
case fatality rate, which is considerably
lower than that, we still don’t know exactly
what it’s going to be, but it’s probably
considerably higher than flu. So if you think about flu,
killing 80,000 people in a year, this is a really serious thing. And as epidemiologists, we
talk about something called the basic reproduction number
of a virus, and that is, if your average person gets
infected, how many people do they pass the virus on to? And this virus’s, basic
reproduction number looks to be more than two. So if you think about
one person infected, infects two people, each of
those infects two people. In not very long you have
thousands and thousands of cases – Multiply very quickly. – Yeah. – What can we do? Because many of us
in the United States are sort of discounting
it, it’s not happening here in these mass numbers that
it is in other places, so what are those simple
steps we can take? – Some of the things we can
do actually don’t involve this new Coronavirus itself. So one of the things
I would recommend is to get your flu shot. Again, we have
something available for a similar respiratory virus
that can protect people. And even if it doesn’t,
directly protect you from landing in the hospital,
it may protect the next person in line who might not get
infected if you don’t have as much virus in your body. So that’s one thing
that we can do. Another thing is
to just think about who’s going to be really
hard hit by this virus. And what we’re seeing is
it’s hitting elderly people really quite hard, and
healthcare workers are always on the front line of
outbreaks like this. And so what we should
be thinking about is preserving resources
and making sure that health care workers
have what they need. And so it’s actually not
a great thing to hoard things like face masks,
which we don’t even know have a protective effect. But it’s this balance, it’s
a serious, serious thing. – One report says that this
year’s vaccine has been about 45% effective, is that accurate? – That is, that’s accurate,
but it’s really important to note that that
effectiveness is measuring complete protection
against infection. And so one way to look
at it is glass half full, you’re still protecting
tens of thousands of people who get the vaccine even
if it’s not 100% effective at blocking out infection. But at the same time that
vaccine, even if it doesn’t completely block infection,
in which case it would be classified as ineffective
in that patient, can still make the difference between
getting really sick, landing in the hospital with
pneumonia and even dying and just shaking it off and
going about your business after feeling a little
ill for a couple days. – Okay, Dr. Michael
Worobey, thank you. – Thank you.

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