SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — The fear of the novel coronavirus is spreading through the Bay Area like a wildfire.
“Actually, my mask is from the wildfire when I got one from my office. I couldn’t find any mask in the area. It’s all sold out. That’s really crazy,” said Yuting Ko, who was wearing a mask as he got ready to fly from SFO to Mexico City for vacation.
On Thursday, plenty of airline workers and passengers at SFO were wearing masks, even for people not traveling to China.
“It’s for my safety, right? I’m sorta scared since I’m at the airport,” explained Ko.
Doctors said the coronavirus and the seasonal flu share some common symptoms. But most people underestimate the flu, which kills thousands of people each year.
“No, I’m not worried about the common flu because we have antidote,” said Asish Chaudhuri, who was flying to India.
San Francisco Health Officer Doctor Tomas Aragon said people worry about the unknown.
“It’s a new virus. There’s a lot we don’t know about it. There’s no treatment and there’s no vaccine. So those three facts I just mentioned are very different from influenza. We know a lot about influenza. There’s vaccine and there’s treatment,” said Dr. Aragon.
He reminded the public there are no confirmed coronavirus cases in the Bay Area and said there is nothing to fear.
“We really want to prevent the introduction of the virus in our community,” said Dr. Aragon.
So is the new virus more deadly than the common flu? Dr. Arragon said it’s just too early to compare them.
But the lack of information may partly be driving the hysteria.
“I’m in a crowded place. I don’t know where people are coming from. I just want to be careful,” said Gayatri Satyan. Satyan has a mask on while waiting for her flight at SFO.
She cancelled her transfer flight that would have taken her to Hong Kong before arriving in India. Instead, she paid more for a different route to India.
“Better safe than sorry,” said Satyan.
Dr. Aragon said a mask might be useful if there’s an outbreak. But there’s no use for it in the Bay Area. The CDC estimated about 12,000 people die from the flu in the U.S. each year. Doctors said it’s better to get a flu shot than to wear a mask.