NewsCovering Kentucky


Regular flu vs. new coronavirus: Similar symptoms sow confusion

Posted at 6:42 AM, Feb 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-06 06:42:06-05

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — There is a scare around the globe for the Wuhan, China-based coronavirus as tens of thousands are infected, at least 500 are dead in China and 12 cases are confirmed in the U.S.

Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, the Commissioner of Health with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, explained the concern lies in the fact that health officials do not know how contagious the virus is.

"We don't know how severe it is because the reports we're getting are from China, and we don't know exactly how reliable those are, and we also do not know how easily transmitted this," said Humbaugh.

He explained the symptoms for coronavirus are very close to that of the flu: fever, cough, pneumonia and shortness of breath.

If you start to show these symptoms, the Health Department asked that you call them before going to your doctor.

"[If] you do have symptoms of fever and cough, then certainly give us a call first before you go to your provider. When we'll have special instructions for you," said Humbaugh. "We don't want people who are potentially infected to sit around waiting rooms or go to the ED, where they might come in contact with other people and again that's why we have public health and we'll help to guide them through that process."

In the meantime, Humbaugh said to "wash your hands frequently. Well, and avoid crowds if possible. Do not touch your hands to your eyes, or your mouth or your nose; especially if they're unwashed. If you're sick, stay home. If you're coughing or sneezing, cough into a tissue and dispose of the tissue."

The first few months of the year are the height of flu season in Kentucky which Humbaugh explained is what many who visited the Health Department have been diagnosed with opposed to coronavirus. He also stressed that it is not too late to get your flu shot.

"Every year we know that flu kills. Depends on the flu season, but flu kills as many as 16,000 to up to 60,000 Americans every year that die of either flu-related illness or its flu or its complications."