By Haddon Libby
Now that I’ve got your attention, the truth is that there is nothing fun about the flu. The latest outbreak is reminiscent of the SARS outbreak of 2002-2003 that originated in China. In that pandemic, nearly 1 in 10 people who contracted the virus died. That pandemic could be traced back to one of the exotic wildlife markets in Guangdong, China. Early thoughts on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus are that it broke out in an exotic market in Wuhan.
As flu season typically occurs during our high season for tourism and winter residents from around the world, let’s take a moment and make sure that you know the basics as it relates to the flu.
There are three types of flu: A, B and C. Type A flus are the type that can kill the most people and are found in humans and animals. Type B only affect humans and can cause an epidemic but not a pandemic like Type A. Type C makes people mildly ill, but it passes quickly.
If you contract the flu, the most common and deadly complication is bacterial pneumonia. Sepsis is another deadly complication that can occasionally occur.
When catching the flu, you are contagious from the day before you feel sick until about a week after getting sick. If exposed to any flu virus, you will typically become ill four to five days after exposure although some people get symptoms as soon as the next day.
The way you catch a deadly strain like the 2019 Coronavirus is the same as you would catch any flu – via a sneeze or touching a common, contaminated surface. This is why businesses like Shanghai Disney or Starbucks would take the extraordinary measure of closing their facilities until the outbreak has been contained.
The flu virus can live on surfaces for hours and contaminated water for days. The thing that makes it so hard to cure a strain like the 2019 Coronavirus is that it will mutate and change more in one day than the human species will evolve over millions of years. It is hard to treat and strong and ever-changing virus.
If you get the vaccine, it takes two weeks for the shot to protect you. While some people feel like they get a little bit of the flu from the shot, experts are adamant that this is not the flu but a side effect experienced by a small percentage of people.
Those who are over 65 years of age or under 2 are at the greatest risk of contracting any flu. Native Americans contract the flu four times more easily than the general population. Other groups that should be especially careful are those with weakened immune systems due to a chronic condition or a Body Mass Index of more than 40.
As we are seeing with this new strain, air travel helps in the rapid spread of viruses between continents. With 4.7 billion passengers expected to take to the skies in 2020, you can see how pandemics are so much more difficult to contain today than in the past.
The most deadly flu outbreak in modern history occurred from 1918 through 1920. Called the Spanish Flu, it is estimated to have infected 500 million people while killing nearly 1 in 5! The origins of this flu strain have been tracked back to the farming community of Haskell County, Kansas where locals who joined the war efforts spread the disease to Europe during World War I. By the time soldiers returned to the United States, the virus had transformed into the deadliest killer in modern times.
For more information as it relates to the Coronavirus and additional health advice this flu season, visit www.cdc.gov.
Haddon Libby is the Managing Partner of Winslow Drake Investment Management, a fiduciary-only investment management firm. For more information on their client-centric services, please visit www.WinslowDrake.com or email Hlibby@winslowdrake.com.