(CNSNews.com) -- As health care experts and world leaders struggle with the spread of the new corona virus (COVID-19) -- an infectious respiratory illness like influenza (flu) but caused by a different virus -- it merits noting how widespread influenza is in the United States and globally, and how many people die from the flu each year.
As explained by Johns Hopkins Medicine, COVID-19 is "caused by one virus, the novel 2019 coronavirus, now called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2." The flu is "caused by any of several different types and strains of influenza viruses."
According to an estimate by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were approximately 45 million cases of the flu in the United States during the 2017-2018 influenza season, resulting in an estimated 810,000 flu-associated hospitalizations and an estimated 61,000 flu-associated deaths.
In the 2016-17 season, there were an estimated 29 million flu cases in the United States; and estimated 497,000 flu-related hospitalizations and 38,000 flu-related deaths. (For comparison, 36,560 people died in car accidents in 2018 in the United States.)
The CDC reports that "between 291,000 and 646,000 people worldwide die from seasonal influenza-related respiratory illnesses each year."
As of Feb. 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) said there were 80,239 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 34 countries.
The WHO also reported that there have been 2,700 deaths from COVID-19.
As of Feb. 25, there were 54 COVID-19 cases in the United States but no deaths reported.