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While Panic Surrounds Coronavirus, Some 20,000 People Have Died From Flu This Season

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) — As concerns about the coronavirus continue to grow in the U.S., the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show an estimated 20,000 people have died of the flu.

In all, the CDC estimates about 34 million people have gotten the flu since the season began in late September -- with 350,000 of those requiring hospitalization.

Medical workers are still encouraging people to get the flu shot, if they haven't already. Officials say they're better equipped to deal with the flu because this year's vaccines are extremely effective. The CDC website says, "Almost all (>99%) of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications recommended for use in the U.S. this season."

Unfortunately, this year's flu season has taken an extremely hard toll on children, with at least 136 deaths this season. According to the CDC, as of February 29, hospitalization rates among children aged 4 and under were the highest on record at this point in the flu season. The 136 child deaths also mark the highest on record since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

"We've seen a shift in the predominant strain, which is usually influenza A. This year it's influenza B. That hasn't happened since the 1992-1993 flu season," explained CBS News medical contributor Dr. Tara Narula. "And we know that influenza B tends to affect children more. They tend to have more severe reaction to influenza B."

So while there are vaccines to fight against different strands of influenza there are no medications designed to specifically target the coronavirus responsible for COVID-19.

While both the flu and COVID-19 are transmitted in similar ways, there are distinct differences. COVID-19 can be spread through airborne transmission -- even after the ill person is no longer near. The flu typically requires more intimate contact and is passed through coughing, sneezing or talking.

There have been more than 600 confirmed cases of the new strain of coronavirus in Texas and more than 30 states -- including a Collin County man on Monday. So far the virus has killed at least 22 people in the U.S.

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