LIMESTONE COUNTY, TX — Coronavirus concerns continue sweeping across the world. Johns Hopkins University reports more than 81,000 cases worldwide and 59 in the U.S. as of Wednesday.
But here's a statistic you'll want to take note of- the flu has sickened one billion people worldwide with as many as 45 million people in this country. So while coronavirus has all the attention right now, doctors say it seems many of us have forgotten about the flu, as we focus on a new threat, halfway around the world.
Doctors warn this "forgotten" virus, continues filling their waiting rooms and even shutting down Central Texas schools for days at a time. They say, we ignore the flu at our own risk.
A simple softball practice puts us in contact with millions of germs. Most do no harm, but with coronavirus looming, parents like Brittany Messmer get concerned.
"A little of both. I mean, if you don't take care of yourself, you're going to get sick either way," said the mother of two.
Her daughter Aubree already had the flu, and her sister right after.
”I felt very very weak and felt I was like on fire,” Aubree recalled.
While the world worries about the coronavirus, doctors say we often ignore the real danger.
”I was actually explaining this concept to my wife and my children,” said Dr. Kenneth Lomenzo of the Limestone Family Medical Center.
Yes, he says a virus halfway across the world can kill you, but more deadly threats lurk nearby.
”The one you need to worry about is the flu. The one that's actually causing the death and the mortality in the United States is the flu,” said Lomenzo.
Making it the neglected but perhaps deadliest threat we face. When it comes to catching viruses, we're often our own worst enemy. How? All it takes is for us to touch the wrong thing, then touch our mouth, scratch our nose or rub our eye and you've got the virus.
But here's the good news, good flu prevention techniques can protect you from the coronavirus.
"They're both similar viruses, and if you're doing whatever you can to protect from one virus, you're protecting yourself from all the viruses," Lomenzo explained.
That's why Brittany Messmer and her daughter have become champion hand washers. They don't want either virus.
"Wash your hands. When you're sick you've got to take your medicine," said Brittany.
So what's the damage in Central Texas? McLennan County reports 370 flu cases for the week ending February 22nd. Brazos County reports 438 cases as of February 15.
Doctors do say you can still get a flu shot to provide some protection, and if you do get sick, keep your germs to yourself. Right now, no vaccine exists for the coronavirus.