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Professors: The flu is a much bigger threat than the coronavirus

There are 5 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, but the flu kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year.

WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. — Concern about the coronavirus is spreading almost faster than the virus itself, but professors at Webster University are putting it into perspective with another virus we know: the flu.

They said the flu threat is much higher for people in the United States.

"The thing that's pretty scary about the coronavirus is just that we don't know a lot about it,” said Jody Spiess, an assistant professor of nursing.

There's one important factor she does know.

"It's not human-to-human yet in the United States,” she said.

All five people diagnosed with coronavirus in the U.S. traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak. They didn't catch it from someone here.

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Meanwhile, the flu is starting to ramp up.

"The last couple of years have been high, high numbers of flu,” professor Mary Ann Drake said.

The CDC reports the flu kills between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans every year.

That’s why these nurses say right now, it's a much bigger threat for us than the coronavirus.

But if you're worried about the coronavirus threat, you're in luck. The nurses say the best way to prevent coronavirus is to take the steps you would to prevent the flu.

“The symptoms are similar. The precautions are very similar,” Spiess said.

Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough, wash your desk at work, and stay home if you're feeling sick.

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