An epidemic to heed

From an editorial Friday in the Greensboro News & Record:

A few months ago, North Carolina and the United States were in the grip of Ebola fear – sometimes irrational.

Today, only four cases of Ebola have been recorded in the United States, none in North Carolina. The panic is over; there will not be a widespread outbreak here.

Instead, there’s another deadly disease rapidly spreading across the landscape. It has claimed eight lives so far this season in North Carolina. There’s no panic associated with it because we’re familiar with the annual visitation of this nasty little bug called the flu. In fact, familiarity may breed complacency. And that’s dangerous.

Ebola is terrifying because its symptoms are gruesome and its mortality rate is high. But the flu actually transmits much more easily and, by infecting so many people, produces a high death toll even with a low mortality rate. The flu was blamed for killing 107 people in North Carolina during its 2013-14 run.

Children and the elderly are most vulnerable to flu, but the eight North Carolina deaths are evenly spread across age groups.

Chances are good the flu will spread more rapidly when school opens again next week. Although parents with limited child-care options may be tempted to send kids to school with a sore throat and slight fever, they’ll regret it if the illness turns into a case of flu. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Anyone who comes into contact with many other people should get a flu shot and otherwise needs to be careful about potential exposure. There’s no need to panic, but there is reason to be wary and sensible about this highly infectious disease.