By Carl Vaagenes, CEO of Alomere Health

First there was SARS, then there was MERS and then there was Bird Flu. Now, the Coronavirus is the latest in a string of new strains of viruses receiving tremendous media attention. It is true, the Coronavirus is new and it can be fatal. At the time this article was composed, 425 individuals have died as a result of the Coronavirus covering 24 countries (none in the US) and that is a tragedy. If we compare those statistics with the estimates from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on the deaths as a result of influenza, the numbers are quite staggering. From October 1st, 2019 through January 25th, 2020 the CDC estimates that there were between 10,000- 25,000 deaths in the U.S. as a result of influenza. That should give some perspective on the Coronavirus for those concerned with contracting a potentially fatal virus.

Influenza continues to be a much more debilitating and even fatal virus than many realize. According to the CDC, during the 2018-2019 influenza season there were 35.5 million illnesses, 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths in the US alone due to influenza. The good news is there is a way to decrease the chance of acquiring influenza and if you do, lessening the severity of the affects, and that is to get the influenza vaccination. Not only will you be receiving those benefits, but it has been proven that an influenza vaccination can reduce the likelihood of getting influenza by 40% to 60% and it helps prevent heart attacks by 15-45%.

There are various reasons why people haven’t had their influenza vaccinations and they range from “I forgot” to “I want to see how effective it is against this year’s strain before getting it” and both are unfortunately poor excuses which won’t do you any good if you contract influenza. What will the consolation be if you’re a healthy person who gets influenza and then passes it to someone with a compromised immune system who cannot get the vaccine? How will you explain your desire to not inoculate yourself against influenza when your grandparent, an infant or someone with a heart condition gets influenza from you? Vaccines are safe and vaccines save lives.

As part of the health care services of our community, we need to monitor the travel patterns of those utilizing our health care facilities to ensure we are accurately treating our patients with the appropriate level of care. The chances of contracting the Coronavirus where we live is negligible when compared with the possibility of contracting influenza. With that added risk, the best course of action is to get your influenza vaccination and keep yourself protected from the threat that is already here and not halfway across the world. You are still able to get the influenza vaccination and see the benefits of getting it any time until April 1st, 2020 and we recommend you do. • • •

Carl Vaagenes is the CEO of Alomere Health in Alexandria. In the Know is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.