Coronavirus may make for grabby headlines, but so far it’s just not that big a risk to most of us. There are only a handful of cases worldwide, and if you haven’t been to Wuhan, China, your cough is probably just a garden variety cold. Still, if you’re worried, do this with your nervous energy: get your damn flu shot.
To be clear, the flu shot does not protect against coronavirus. That’s a different virus. But the early signs of both are similar: respiratory symptoms (like coughing) and fever. If you get your flu shot, you may have a bit more peace of mind if you start coughing. The flu shot isn’t perfect, but it prevents many cases of flu and can make others less severe.
There’s also a benefit to others: If you seek care for the flu in the middle of a coronavirus outbreak, you’re making more work for hospital staff and possibly causing extra worry for yourself. But you could have prevented that flu with the vaccine that you should be getting anyway…so why not?
Critical focus on n-CoV2019. One thing which people can do which would help is to get a flu vaccine. It will reduce the number of us who get flu & reduce pressure on diagnostic, clinical & health systems as this epidemic unfolds.— Jeremy Farrar (@JeremyFarrar) January 23, 2020
There’s also a more serious reason for getting the flu shot: flu has killed, and will almost certainly kill this year, a lot more people than the new coronavirus. Somewhere between 20,000 and 60,000 Americans die from the flu every year, mostly people who are very young, very old, or immunocompromised. And they often catch it from healthy-ish people who didn’t bother to get their flu shot. So if you think a rampant, deadly virus is a bad thing—just get your flu vaccine already.