Americans could be staring down the worst public health crisis in recent history if COVID-19 rages on into the flu season, CDC warns
If the coronavirus continues to rage on, the US could experience the worst public health crisis in modern history, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield warned, saying that the mixture of coronavirus with the annual flu season could lead to a public health crisis. He advised people to not only "wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and be smart about crowds," but to also get a flu shot. The flu killed 80,000 Americans in the 2017-2018 season. Getting a flu shot helps protect people and limit the strain on the healthcare system. Redfield said the measures used to curb the spread of the coronavirus could help curb the flu as well. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that public health in the United States could reach a critical juncture during the fall season if the coronavirus rages on. The seasonal flu combined with growing coronavirus cases could amplify the effects of the deadly pandemic, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during an interview with the medical blog, WebMD. "I'm asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands, and be smart about crowds. If you do those four things it will bring this outbreak down," Redfield said. "But, if we don't do that … this could be the worst fall from a public health perspective we've ever had." "I keep telling people, I'm not asking some of America to do it — we all got to do it," Redfield said, suggesting that where the US goes from here depends in part on whether Americans practice the recommended steps that scientists and public health officials have been advocating for months since COVID-19 began spreading in the US. "It's dependent on how the American people choose to respond," Redfield said. "It's really the worst of times or the best of times, depending on the American public. I'm optimistic." The US is among the countries that have the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths, with over 5.2 million recorded infections and more than 167,000 deaths as of August 13. On Wednesday, the US reported 55,910 new cases. The country also recorded the highest number of single-day deaths since mid-May: 1,499. Redfield also advised Americans to get their flu shot this year and emphasized that the measures being used to curb the spread of the coronavirus, like social distancing and wearing masks, would also help limit the spread of the flu. According to CBS News, the flu is a common cause of death in the US, but less than half of the population got a flu vaccine last year. The 2017-2018 flu season was the deadliest in modern history. More than 80,000 people died from the viral infection, CNN reported at the time. The CDC has urged the public to get a flu shot to help protect themselves and also limit the burden on the healthcare system. Redfield hopes to have 65% of the population vaccinated for the flu this year, CBS reported. "We're going to have COVID in the fall, and we're going to have flu in the fall, and either one of those by themselves can stress certain hospital systems," Redfield said. "I've seen hospital intensive care units stretched by a severe flu season, and clearly we've all seen it recently with COVID." "So, by getting that flu vaccine, you may be able to negate the necessity to have to take up a hospital bed, and then that hospital bed can be more available for those that get hospitalized with COVID," he said.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown
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Trump is still comparing COVID-19 to the flu. But the coronavirus has already killed 3 times more people than flu does in a year.
Summary List PlacementPresident Donald Trump hadn't even been back at the White House 24 hours following...Summary List PlacementPresident Donald Trump hadn't even been back at the White House 24 hours following his hospitalization for COVID-19 when he brought back a tired comparison: He claimed the coronavirus was akin to the seasonal flu. "Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu," Trump tweeted on Tuesday morning. "Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!" However, it's simply not true that 100,000 people die annually from the flu or that COVID-19 is less lethal than the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the US's worst flu season in the last decade — the 2017-2018 season — killed 61,099 Americans, while the coronavirus has already killed more than 210,000 people in the country. Twitter flagged Trump's post within hours as "misleading and potentially harmful information." Facebook took the post down for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy. "This is not the flu — not even close. It's a much more serious illness without question," David Battinelli, chief medical officer at Northwell Health and a professor of medicine at Hofstra University, told Business Insider of COVID-19. He added: "Trump should know that. I'm sure he has had the flu once or twice and didn't go to hospital. He got this and went in for two days." The worst flu season in the last decade killed 61,000 Americans Influenza is no cakewalk. Every year, the seasonal flu kills tens of thousands of Americans. Last year, there were more than 18 million flu-related medical visits and 405,000 hospitalizations. But there has never been a season in which "over 100,000" Americans died of the flu. The average number of people who've died of flu each year in the US since 2010 is about 36,000, CDC data shows. Most recently, between 2019 and 2020, 21,909 people died. Trump was well aware of that in March: So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that! — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 9, 2020 It's possible the president's latest tweet was referring to the annual global death toll from flu epidemics. According to the World Health Organization, between there are 290,000 and 650,000 respiratory deaths related to influenza worldwide every year. But that's far lower than the global coronavirus death toll: More than 1 million people have died of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The coronavirus isn't 'far less lethal' than the flu About 0.1% of people who got the flu died in the US last year, according to the CDC. The US's current COVID-19 case-fatality rate, also known as its death rate, is 2.8%. The number comes from dividing the number of deaths by the number of total cases. That's probably higher than the infection-mortality rate (IFR) — the overall proportion of people who die as a result of their coronavirus infection. Research suggests the IFR is significantly lower because that figure would include Americans whose infections are not reported because they have no symptoms, those who don't get tested, as well as those whose COVID-19 deaths aren't recorded. "The studies I have any faith in are tending to converge around 0.5–1%," Timothy Russell, a mathematical epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told Nature in June. But that's still five to 10 times higher than the flu's IFR. Plus, the infection-mortality rate in a given population depends on the age, demographics, and prevalence of preexisting health conditions in that group. The coronavirus disproportionately impacts Black Americans, people older than 65, and patients with preexisting health issues like heart disease. The IFR of any illness tends to decrease over time as doctors get better at treating patients. But even so, Trump's assertion that the coronavirus is "far less lethal" than the flu is off-base. In fact, the president seems to have known that the virus was worse than the flu when he talked to veteran journalist Bob Woodward about it during the winter. Recordings of interviews between Trump and Woodward show that on February 7, Trump said to Woodward: "It goes through the air. That's always tougher than the touch. You don't have to touch things. Right? But the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than even your strenuous flus." Nonetheless, Trump has repeatedly downplayed the severity of the pandemic to the public by likening the flu to COVID-19. One reason Americans are less impacted by the flu than the coronavirus, of course, is that we have seasonal vaccines. Plus, doctors also have better treatment options. "We've done much better with the flu because were vaccinating more people and we have antiviral drugs that are known to work," Battinelli said. So it's possible that at some time in the future, COVID-19 will become less deadly. A coronavirus vaccine also isn't likely to be necessary every year the way flu shots are, because unlike the flu, the coronavirus does not mutate rapidly.SEE ALSO: See how the coronavirus death rate and flu death rate in the US compare by age bracket Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: How to tell if you have a cold, flu, or just allergies
But the same measures that fight coronavirus are effective against the flu – and vaccines offer...But the same measures that fight coronavirus are effective against the flu – and vaccines offer another weapon against itPublic health experts, researchers and manufacturers warn the coming flu season could bring a “double-barrel” respiratory disease outbreak in the United States, just as fall and winter are expected to exacerbate spread of Covid-19.At the same time, researchers said the strategies currently used to prevent Covid-19 transmission – namely, hand-washing, mask-wearing and social distancing – could also help lessen flu outbreaks, if Americans are willing to practice them. Continue reading...
'Patients are suffering across the board': A Texas ER doctor said hospitals are getting overwhelmed with patients of varying causes as the state gets battered by coronavirus outbreaks
Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, has been...Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, has been treating patients at the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Based in Austin, Texas, she described how doctors in the six different ERs where she works have become overrun with both coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients. The ER doctor said the record-high coronavirus case counts don't portray "an accurate picture" of the situation in the state, as families and hospital staff feel not only the devastating impact of COVID-19 outbreaks but also patients who die of other causes. "It's not just, 'We've got a lot of COVID-19, and everyone's dying of COVID-19,'" Kathuria said. "Patients with cancer are not getting their cancer surgery, patients who are delivering children in the hospital and not being able to feel comfortable that they're not at risk for COVID." She emphasized the importance of showing how overwhelmed hospitals are in hopes to make it a higher priority to get a more cohesive and rapid coronavirus testing and contact tracing infrastructure in place. Until then, Kathuria said she hopes that people put aside political beliefs and become more unified in their response to the virus, at least until the coronavirus becomes more manageable. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. An ER doctor in Texas described the devastating impact of coronavirus outbreaks in the state, emphasizing that not only are COVID-19 patients suffering but patients "across the board." Dr. Natasha Kathuria, an emergency medicine physician with expertise in public health and epidemiology, told Business Insider that as the wave of coronavirus cases slams the state, hospitals are getting overwhelmed treating all types of cases. "It's not just, 'We've got a lot of COVID-19, and everyone's dying of COVID-19,'" Kathuria said. "Patients with cancer are not getting their cancer surgery, patients who are delivering children in the hospital and not being able to feel comfortable that they're not at risk for COVID." "We have a higher proportion of sick patients coming in than ever before," she continued. "Before, we would have plenty of non-sick patients who were just simple cases that we treat and discharge, treat and discharge." Based in Austin, Texas, Kathuria works in six different ERs throughout the state, treating patients of all kinds at the front lines. As doctors become overwhelmed with patients, she said they're forced into "just doing the basics, just trying to keep people alive as long as we can." "People died of avoidable, preventable causes of death, and that's what we were trying to avoid," she added. As of Thursday, Texas has nearly 531,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in the state, and the state death toll has surpassed 9,700. Earlier this week, the positivity rate in testing soared to 24.5% of tests, according to state data. But Kathuria stressed that there is more to the devastating effects of the coronavirus in Texas than the record-high case counts, which display a substantial number of excess deaths — or the number of deaths between the projected number and observed. Last week, the US saw 3.4% to 7.2% excess deaths across all causes, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Excess death rates went as high as 17% across the US as the coronavirus battered states along the Sun Belt. Even then, she said excess death rate may not even take into account coronavirus-related deaths due to the lack of quick, reliable COVID-19 testing. "We don't know if these excess deaths that maybe were never diagnosed with COVID-19 or COVID-19-related," Kathuria told Business Insider. "Maybe they had COVID-19, and we couldn't test them for it, or they died at home, or they died at the ER where we weren't going to be able to test them while they're coding." (Coding refers to patients who are going into cardiopulmonary arrest.) "It's a tough battle to really get an accurate picture," she said, "And that's why it's really important to really present the whole picture of how our healthcare system is doing, and it's not doing well." Kathuria said she and her colleagues are "terrified" of the upcoming flu season as it overlaps with the coronavirus pandemic. She expressed concern that if fewer people are inclined to get a flu vaccine in the fall due to "conspiracy theories and concerns about vaccinations that have been disproven," the US could see a flu season that is "way worse than before." "They [influenza and the coronavirus] present very similarly from the beginning, so separating them will be very difficult if we still don't have the capability of doing rapid COVID testing in the ER, just like we can do with influenza," she said. "So we really need to ramp up rapid testing, and I'm not talking about these tests that come back in like seven to 10 days that don't really do much for prevention of spreading this virus on a large scale." Better testing and contact tracing methods will go a long way towards managing the virus, Kathuria said, though without a proper national testing and tracing infrastructure, the consequences could be — and have been — deadly. "We're not looking to make COVID-19 go away in 2020. We actually don't know how long it may be here, maybe forever," she said. "But what we're trying to do is manage it. We've been doing this for decades with influenza, malaria ... and Zika virus." "We know how to manage infectious diseases when they are manageable, but when they are no longer manageable — meaning our hospital systems and our healthcare system gets overrun and overburdened with the disease — everybody suffers." She cited the politicization of the virus as one of the key reasons why the pandemic has been polarizing public health efforts and diversifying public opinion of the virus as a whole. "Political beliefs run very deep in everybody... but what we're worried about is that it's actually going to affect our normal public health measures," Kathuria told Business Insider. "That's why these policy changes — the importance of wearing masks, limiting mass gatherings — all of these things are so crucial just to get us across the finish line." In a recent visit to El Paso, Gov. Greg Abbott implored Texans to wear masks and practice social distancing, and stay at home if they can, adding that he understands that the task can be "a challenge," but "a once in a lifetime challenge." Kathuria echoed a similar sentiment, saying that these strict health safety measures are "not a forever thing." "We just need to keep this manageable, but we need everyone on the same page," she said.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Inside London during COVID-19 lockdown