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Influenza (Flu) and the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCov)

You may have questions about the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Risk of catching the novel coronavirus in the United States is very low. In fact, your chances of getting the flu are much higher. Learn more below about influenza (flu) and the novel coronavirus.

Influenza (Flu)

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness, caused by influenza viruses that affect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Anyone can get the flu.

While most people recover easily from flu, it can last for a week or longer. Pregnant women, young children, people with certain medical conditions such as asthma and heart disease, and those over 65 years can have dangerous complications if they get the flu. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine every year.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.  Although there are several treatments for flu, the vaccine is the best way to keep yourself healthy. While the flu vaccine may not protect against all strains of flu, it significantly reduces your chance of getting the flu.

How common is the flu?

According to the CDC, there were 35 million cases of the flu, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths in the United States during the 2018-2019 flu season.

What to do if you think you have the flu

Symptoms of the flu include:

  • Fever
  • Achiness
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Chest pain 
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache

These symptoms are often more severe and come on faster than similar symptoms caused by the common cold.

If you have these symptoms, call your healthcare provider for advice or an appointment. It’s especially important to call your provider if you are under 5 or over 65 years old, have a chronic medical condition, are pregnant, or have a compromised immune system. 


Coronaviruses are a group of viruses that often cause respiratory illnesses in humans. They can also affect other mammals and birds.

Most cases of coronavirus are mild, and some, like the common cold, occur frequently throughout the world. Recently, a new coronavirus (currently called 2019-nCoV) has been found to infect humans.

How common is the novel coronavirus?

Novel coronavirus has been reported in a growing number of countries and people. The situation is evolving quickly, but most cases of 2019-nCoV have occurred in China, specifically the area in and around Wuhan. Right now, the risk of becoming infected with the novel coronavirus in the United States is very low.

For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the CDC’s website.

How is BMC helping to protect patients against novel coronavirus?

The safety of our patients, visitors, and staff is our highest priority. BMC, along with the other Boston hospitals, is following CDC guidelines and taking precautions if someone seeks care who has respiratory symptoms and may have been exposed to the virus.

BMC will be monitoring this situation closely, in partnership with local and national public health officials. 

Protecting yourself against infectious diseases

Prevention is key to staying healthy. In addition to the flu vaccine:

  • Cover your sneezes and coughs with your sleeve, not your hand.
  • Wash your hands frequently to reduce the spread of germs. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • If you feel sick, stay home, and avoid travel.
  • Avoid close contact with people with flu-like symptoms whenever possible.