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MSSN's latest Truth in Medicine poll delves into coronavirus, flu

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Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital Dr. Aaron Glatt said he was surprised that many residents do not get vaccinated for the flu, and noted that he was also shocked that the hospital’s latest “Truth in Medicine” poll found that nearly half of those polled would not get one for the coronavirus if one were available.
Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital Dr. Aaron Glatt said he was surprised that many residents do not get vaccinated for the flu, and noted that he was also shocked that the hospital’s latest “Truth in Medicine” poll found that nearly half of those polled would not get one for the coronavirus if one were available.
Courtesy Mount Sinai South Nassau

Amid more than 100 Nassau County residents being put in voluntary isolation to be monitored for exposure to the coronavirus and one case being confirmed in Manhattan, Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside released its latest “Truth in Medicine” poll, which focused on the virus.

In Nassau, the residents being monitored have been asked to remain away from people, including their families, for 14 days from the last time they were in China or may have been exposed to the virus. During that time, they will report their symptoms and daily temperature to county health officials.

On Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed that a 39-year-old Manhattan woman contracted the coronavirus while travelling to Iran, marking New York’s first known case of the illness. She has been isolated at her home after the diagnosis, Cuomo said.

According to MSSN’s poll, which was taken before the case was reported, only slightly more than half of the residents surveyed in New York City and on Long Island would receive a vaccination to combat the spread of the coronavirus if one were to become available.

As the coronavirus death toll rises around the world, some 55 percent of residents polled said they would get a vaccine for the virus if one were discovered. Sixty-two percent of respondents to the poll — conducted among 600 area residents from Feb. 5-9 — said they were highly concerned about the coronavirus outbreak, with 72 percent reporting that they were less likely to travel overseas due to the scare. The poll also found that:

Forty-eight percent of respondents said they were less likely to take mass transit

Forty-six percent said they were less likely to attend large gatherings

Seventy-two percent agreed visitor screening should be required before entering a hospital or public place.

Dr. Aaron Glatt, chairman of the Department of Medicine at MSSN, noted that much like the flu, many New Yorkers would not be in a hurry to seek out a coronavirus vaccine.

“The poll showed that people aren’t jumping to get vaccinated for the coronoavirus,” he said. “I’m hoping people just didn’t understand it. If it was something that really worked, I think people would be jumping to take it, even people who aren’t normally in the vaccine camp.”

While many respondents were worried about coronavirus, the flu has remained a much more significant risk to public health in the U.S., with at least 16,000 deaths reported since the start of the current flu season. Glatt noted that there are a lot of residents who also do not get vaccinated for influenza.

“It always surprises me that people don’t want to get the full protective benefits of something that’s out there,” Glatt said. “The vaccination is still good. It’s still effective, not perfect, and I’m surprised that people aren’t getting vaccinated.”

COVID-19 spreads in similar ways to the flu and the common cold, but there is still much health experts do not know about the virus. The Centers for Disease Control warned that COVID-19 may have a long-lasting impact, and, while researchers are working on a vaccine to combat it, one is not yet available.

Results of the poll indicate that New Yorkers do not have a full understanding of how deadly the flu can be. When asked how many people they thought had died from the flu in the country this year, 48 percent of respondents put the number at or below 1,000. The CDC, meanwhile, estimates between 16,000 and 30,000 people have died from the flu this season.

Although residents view the flu as a more serious threat to the nation than COVID-19, with 44 percent saying the flu is the biggest risk to the U.S. population compared to 21 percent for the coronavirus, respondents expressed more concern about the impact of the coronavirus (54 percent of respondents) than the flu (51 percent) on their family.

Physicians’ offices, urgent care centers and hospital emergency rooms are being urged to obtain a full travel history from all patients, regardless of if they are presenting with symptoms.

“There is a flu epidemic on Long Island and across the state,” MSSN Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adhi Sharma said. “Our hospital and many others are inundated with the flu and seeing more cases than in previous years. Protect yourself. Standard precautions, such as good hand-washing and observing proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, are still the rule of thumb to prevent against the flu, coronavirus and many other viruses.”

Of those who responded, 75 percent said they had gotten the flu vaccine, while 84 percent said they frequently washed their hands as a way to protect themselves against viruses during flu season. Another 27 percent said they used herbal supplements, 29 percent said they stay home as much as possible and 45 percent said they try to avoid being around sick people.

“The flu shot is considered the single best preventive method against the flu, so if you haven’t been vaccinated, yet, please do so; it is not too late to get vaccinated,” Sharma said.

Respondents to the poll showed they were fairly confident that the federal and state governments are adequately prepared to deal with a potentially large-scale outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., with 50 percent of metropolitan area residents saying they are confident government officials are ready to protect them. Some 36 percent said they felt that the government is not prepared and 14 percent were unsure or did not answer that question.

Overall, women were more likely than men to get a coronavirus vaccine if one were to become available. Younger respondents were also more likely to seek it than older respondents, and those who answered from New York City were more likely receive it than Long Island residents.