Mass. doctors: Flu is greater concern than coronavirus

BOSTON (WHDH) - While the deadly coronavirus has arrived in Boston and been declared a global health emergency, local doctors say people shouldn’t panic — and that the flu is a bigger health concern.

“This is not an epidemic and it’s not a pandemic at this point,” said Dr. Todd Ellerin, the director of infectious disease at South Shore Health.

Officials announced Saturday that a UMass Boston student has a confirmed case of the coronavirus, which has killed 300 people worldwide. The student is being monitored at his home and other people the man came in contact with are being monitored as well.

On campus, students said they were not overly concerned.

“We have great hospitals here, I am sure he is getting taken care of,” said UMass student Bradden Johnson. “It’s not too big a deal but I am a little worried.”

Ellerin said the best way to avoid the virus is to use common-sense practices — people should wash their hands, cover their mouths with their arms when they cough and not go to work if they feel feverish.

“In most cases this is only going to be transmitted if you’re within three to six feet of the person, if they are coughing on you, if you are sharing drinks or food with that person or shaking their hand and touching your eyes or nose,” Ellerin said.

And while Ellerin said the number of cases are likely to increase, the eight patients with coronavirus in the U.S. are doing well. He said the flu is more contagious and deadlier, and should be a greater concern. Flu shots are still available.

“We are in the middle of the flu season right now,” Ellerin said. “There are 15 million people infected, 100,000 hospitalizations, over 8,000 deaths. We’re dealing with an epidemic right now that is common, the coronavirus is rare.”

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