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Danbury Doctor Urges Flu Prevention Even As Attention Focuses On Ebola

Dr. Tom Brown, medical director at Doctors Express Urgent Care in Danbury, urges residents to get a flu shot to prevent catching the virus.
Dr. Tom Brown, medical director at Doctors Express Urgent Care in Danbury, urges residents to get a flu shot to prevent catching the virus. Photo Credit: Contributed

DANBURY, Conn. -- The Ebola virus is a serious global concern and every precaution must be taken to ensure the deadly virus doesn't spread. But a Danbury-based doctor warned the flu virus is even more deadly to Americans every year.

"It is a terrifying disease, but it is statistically insignificant," Dr. Tom Brown said about the threat of Ebola in the United States. But "we can see anywhere from 30,000 to 90,000 people per year dying from the flu" in the United States.

Brown is medical director at Doctors Express Urgent Care in Danbury and West Hartford.

But the flu is deadly, he said. In 1918-19, an estimated 50 million to 100 million people died from the Spanish Influenza worldwide as it ravaged countries at the end of the World War I.

But the more common flu "is not sexy," Brown said, especially compared with Ebola, which dominates news coverage and people's everyday conversation.

But flu is much more easily transmitted than Ebola, he said. Ebola is spread through direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids, he said. Shaking someone's hand or hugging someone would rarely lead to an Ebola infection, Brown said.

"You have to come into pretty intense contact with someone who, for instance, has projectile vomiting and diarrhea," he said.

That is how two nurses in Dallas contracted the virus from a patient who had visited Liberia in West Africa, where the disease has killed thousands.

However, the flu is more easily transmitted because it is an airborne virus, he said. Someone with the flu who is coughing can spread it to others, and it can also be spread from touching items that have been contaminated by someone else, such as places in public transit or door knobs, Brown said. 

Important precautions to take include washing your hands and wearing a mask if you have a cold or a fever and are visiting someone in the hospital, he said.

But the single biggest step to take is to get a flu shot, Brown said.

Some people may have a reaction to the shot, he said, such as a low grade fever or some discomfort, which can dissuade some from getting the inoculation. But catching the flu is much worse, Brown said. The doctor said he knew first-hand: He had flu more than a decade ago and suffered through a few miserable days as it went through him.

Although much attention has turned to Ebola, and the thousands of deaths in West Africa, Brown said the virus can be fought and contained efficiently even in developing countries. Nigeria, for example, has declared itself Ebola-free after a vigorous health campaign.

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