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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

If you’re freaking out about coronavirus but you didn’t get a flu shot, you’ve got it backwards.

The big picture: A novel outbreak will always command more attention than a common illness, and the coronavirus is a serious health threat. But our newfound hyper-vigilance about infections might be more helpful if we could redirect some of it toward influenza — a significantly deadlier virus that strikes every year.

By the numbers: This new strain of coronavirus has killed 132 people so far, all of them in China. More than 6,000 total cases have been reported worldwide, although experts believe that total is underestimated.

  • By comparison, this year's flu season has killed 8,200 people, with at least 15 million cases — and that's just in the U.S.

Between the lines: James Lawler, an infectious disease physician at the University of Nebraska, said pandemic viruses like the coronavirus cause more anxiety because, unlike the flu, there are not any initial countermeasures like vaccines, antivirals, diagnostic testing and monitoring systems.

  • Those things exist for the flu, yet vaccination rates are low.
  • "The flu is just not as new and headline-grabbing because we see it every year," said Emily Martin, an epidemiologist at the University of Michigan.

The bottom line: The coronavirus has upended the lives of many Chinese citizens, and it warrants a strong public-health response. It's just important to remember that if you're concerned about viruses, a lot of those deaths every year are preventable.

  • "When we think about the relative danger of this new coronavirus and influenza ... coronavirus will be a blip on the horizon in comparison," William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told Kaiser Health News.

Go deeper

Updated 2 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: Unvaccinated kids must wear masks in school this fall — CDC says schools should still universally require masks and physical distancing.
  2. Politics: New York to lift mask mandate for vaccinated people — CDC director says politics didn't play a role in abrupt mask policy shift.
  3. Vaccines: Sanofi, GSK COVID vaccine shows strong immune response in phase 2 trials — Vaccine-hesitant Americans cite inaccurate side effects.
  4. Business: How retailers are responding to the latest CDC guidance — Delta to require all new employees be vaccinated — Target, CVS and other stores ease mask requirements after CDC guidance.
  5. World: Taiwan raises COVID-19 alert level amid surge in cases — Biden administration to send 20 million U.S.-authorized vaccine doses abroad.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
2 hours ago - World

Biden backs Gaza ceasefire for first time in call with Netanyahu

Biden with Netanyahu in 2010. Photo: Debbi Hill/Pool/ Getty Images

President Biden expressed support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in a call on Thursday evening with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the White House said in a statement.

Why it matters: This is the first time since the beginning of the crisis last Monday that Biden or anyone in his administration has publicly backed a ceasefire. It will increase pressure on Israel to seek an end to the conflict, which Netanyahu has insisted will continue until Hamas' ability to attack Israel is further degraded.

4 hours ago - World

Schumer: "I want to see a ceasefire"

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Monday he wants to "see a ceasefire reach quickly and mourn the loss of life."

Why it matters: Schumer is a staunch defender of Israel and has maintained that Israel should be able to defend itself.