Surgeon general: Flu is bigger threat to Americans than coronavirus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As the death toll from coronavirus in China rises above 80 with more than 2,700 confirmed cases around the world -- including five in the United States -- concern is rising, even infecting the financial markets.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses, some of which cause the common cold. Others have evolved into more severe illnesses, such as SARS and MERS, although so far the new virus does not appear to be as deadly or contagious.

As the U.S. government works to evacuate Americans from Wuhan -- the city at the center of the deadly outbreak -- the surgeon general was in Jacksonville on Monday trying to put the outbreak in context.

Vice Adm. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon general, told News4Jax he is more concerned about the impact of the flu than this new strain of coronavirus.

“Right now, you are more likely to get sick to die of the seasonal flu than from coronavirus,” Adams said. “Over 8,000 people in the United States have died this year from the seasonal flu. No one has died from the coronavirus and, again, we’re at five cases.”

Adams said this strain of coronavirus appears less lethal than SARS, which killed 774 of fewer than 8,100 people infected -- one in 10.

“It wasn’t medication that helped us overcome SARS. It was basic health interventions like washing your hands and staying inside. It’s a perfect time to emphasize that the seasonal flu is deadly,” Adams said.

He pointed out that some of the same precautions against coronavirus will help protect from getting the flue: washing our hands, covering our mouths when we sneeze and staying at home when we’re sick. And it’s not too late to get the flu shot.

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