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Local doctor: Flu likely more deadly than coronavirus

Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-29 00:21:45-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — While admitting we need more information about the COVID-19 coronavirus from China that's spreading worldwide, a local emergency-room doctor believes it eventually will be determined that it is 10 times less deadly than this year's flu strains.

"The influenza virus is actually about 10 times more serious than the coronavirus that we have around here," said Physicians Premier Chief Medical Officer Dr. Lonnie Schwirtlich.

That's right. The Coastal Bend has seen coronaviruses before. Questions remain, however, over how severe this new, COVID-19 strain is.

That could change soon.

"What the coronavirus that's coming out of China is and what's its capabilities, we're not quite sure," said Dr. Schwirtlich. "But we're going to find out more now that there's a lot of it in (South Korea), because there we have more ability to find out the information that China is reluctant to let us know about."

His relatively low concern level about COVID-19 coronavirus does not ease the minds of some people who are visiting Corpus Christi.

"I'm concerned because I have -- my immune system is not good for me; myself," said Floren Lopez, who is visiting from San Francisco. "So it concerns me that I'm susceptible."

"I'm very concerned about it, and I don't really know what to do about it yet," said John Larsen, who's visiting from Kansas City. "I'm hoping we get some direction on what we can do, individually, to kind-of protect ourselves if it starts flaring out of control here or in our community."

Other visitors think they know what to do to prevent catching COVID-19 coronavirus, and they're not as concerned.

"If you don't want to have coronavirus is like saying you don't want to have the flu," said Genevieve Aspillaga, who was visiting the seawall from Toronto. "So just keep yourself clean and healthy."

Dr. Schwirtlich agrees with her.

"It's just like any infection out there," he said. "You need to try and avoid it if you can. You do that by avoiding people who are sick and washing your hands frequently."