With the Coronavirus spreading at a rapid rate throughout China and infecting hundreds of people in numerous other countries, experts are beginning to fear a worldwide pandemic. However, people around the world should be much more fearful of a more commonplace virus, influenza.
The Coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China and is a respiratory disease that causes fever, coughing and shortness of breath. According to the CDC, the virus can be spread through the air by coughing or sneezing and by any close contact with the disease. Experts worry about this disease because it is a strain of the virus that has not been seen before. While the spread of the disease is cause for alarm, it is not nearly as alarming as the data produced by the common flu each year.
Statistics provided by the CDC reported an estimated 15-21 million flu cases in the past four months, with an estimated nine to twenty thousand deaths.
In 1918, an influenza pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu” wreaked havoc on the world, infecting about one-third of the world’s population at the time. According to the National Archives, World War I claimed the lives of an estimated 16 million people while the flu outbreak of 1918 killed an estimated 50 million people. The disease spread quickly throughout the world as many soldiers returning home from war carried it with them.
These are terrifying numbers considering the world population was only a fraction of what it is today, and there was no access to mainstream air travel.
With society today being more connected than ever before, is the risk of another, more deadly flu outbreak on the horizon?
The next major flu pandemic will likely be even more infectious and deadly than in years past due to the ever-growing connectivity of society today. Business Insider states that there are over 3,000 commercial flights that come through New York City airports each day. With numerous flights coming from all over the world, the chance of transmission is high. A city as populated as New York would be quickly taken over by an infectious strain of influenza. The WHO (World Health Organization) believes that another flu pandemic is certain in the future, they just do not know when or how it will come about.
While diseases such as the Ebola virus and now the Coronavirus seem to dominate the news when outbreaks occur, people should not fear as good hygiene practices such as washing hands often can significantly decrease the risk of infection.