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China has coronavirus, but Indiana has the flu

International attention has been focused heavily on the deadly outbreak of a new coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The dangerous disease, with respiratory symptoms similar to that of the flu, is still running rampant with China's health ministry reporting that more than 42,000 people have been infected. More than 1,000 have died.

There doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

What is a coronavirus? According the World Health Organization, it is part of a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, commonly known as MERS, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, known as SARS. The new virus in China is called a novel coronavirus, meaning that it had previously been unidentified in humans.

Fortunately for Americans, the number of cases in the U.S. are few, with most infected people having been in China recently or in contact with others who had been there. Health officials are working to keep the virus contained.

While the outbreak in China is concerning and the virus has been declared a global health emergency by the WHO, people in the Wabash Valley are unlikely to be affected by it. The immediate threat in America's midsection is the flu, which is raging through the local population.

As February began, the Indiana State Department of Health was reporting the prevalence of influenza-like illnesses to be high and widespread. At the end of January, 50 deaths had been listed as flu-related. That number had certainly risen since then.

Even as winter winds down and spring approaches, health officials say it's wise to remain vigilant. If you haven't had a flu shot, you can still get one. Otherwise, the standard precautions apply — wash your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cook meat and eggs. If possible, avoid contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness.

If you have flu-like symptoms — fever/chills, coughing, headache, body aches, fatigue — it would be best to see a doctor. And stay home if you can. Flu is not something you should want to share. Those around you will appreciate your consideration.

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