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Coronavirus tips help stop the flu

Tips on preventing the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes a respiratory disease now called COVID-19, seem to be helping control influenza in South Korea.

According to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday, the number of flu patients stood at 16 per 1,000 outpatients in the second week of February. That represents a 67 percent decline from the season’s peak of 49, recorded in the fourth week of December.

The number of flu patients had steadily declined, but stayed above 40 in the first four weeks of January. But, as COVID-19 became an increasing concern in late January and early February, the number of flu patients dropped sharply, to 28 per 1,000 in the week that ended Feb. 1 and now further to 16 per 1,000.

The decline is largely attributed to the public’s following the KCDC’s advice on preventing the coronavirus from spreading, which is a list of actions that could also reduce the spread of influenza. That guidance includes wearing face masks in public places, washing hands frequently and coughing into a sleeve or a tissue.

The latest survey by Seoul National University found that 8 out of 10 people now wear face masks when they go outside in a dramatic increase compared to 2016, when only 3 out of 10 did so.

By Choi Si-young (