Influenza prevention still important to prioritize

Ebola outbreak is center of focus, other illnesses still important
Influenza prevention still important to prioritize

The possibility of an Ebola outbreak may be a hot topic across the country right now, but doctors say a far more common illness ought to be your first priority this fall.

One person has died from Ebola so far here in the U.S. But according to the Centers for Disease Control, influenza can take the lives of anywhere from 3,000 to 50,000 people in any given flu season.

“For the vast majority of Americans, flu is an enormous risk compared to the very, very small risk that anybody would have to come into contact or deal with Ebola,” said Dr. James Conway, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at UW Hospital.

Both the flu and Ebola have similar symptoms at the onset, including a fever, cough and headache, which has some doctors worried people will mistake one for the other.

“Now people have this Ebola thing on their minds, they’re unfortunately going to think every illness they get, whether they have any reason to have been exposed or not, is going to be Ebola,” said Conway.

Doctors say unless you’ve recently traveled to West Africa or have been in contact with someone who has, it’s a safe bet you just have the flu or another respiratory virus.

“What we really need to remember is when we hear hoof beats, think horses, not zebras,” said Conway. “Mostly the illnesses people are going to have are the ones that we get every winter around here.”

Conway added the best defense against the flu is preventive, and he highlighted the importance of receiving a flu vaccine every year.