Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, which means they affect your lungs and breathing and can be spread to others through the air. Although the symptoms can look similar they are caused by different viruses—COVID-19 by infection with coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and flu by infection with influenza viruses. Here are some of the key similarities and differences between the flu and COVID-19.
SIMILARITIES: Covid 19 and the flu
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain or body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
How it Spreads
- Droplets or small virus particles from a sick person can be transmitted to other people nearby. The particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.
- A person touching a surface with viruses on it and then touching their face, mouth and nose.
- People infected with the coronavirus or the flu may not realize they are sick for several days, and during that time can unknowingly spread the disease to others before they even feel sick.
- Both are treated by addressing symptoms, such as reducing fever. Severe cases may require hospitalization and very ill patients may need a ventilator — a machine that helps them breathe.
- Antiviral medications may shorten the duration of influenza.
- Neither the flu nor COVID-19 is treatable with antibiotics as they only work on bacterial infections.
Both the flu and COVID-19 can be prevented by getting the flu shot (available at all 8 Mercy Urgent Care locations while supplies last), practicing social distancing when out in public, wearing a face covering, frequent and thorough hand washing, staying home when sick, coughing into the crook of your arm, and physical distancing. If you experience flu and/or COVID-19 symptoms, schedule a telemedicine visit to get those checked and then tested when appropriate.
DIFFERENCES: Covid 19 and the flu
- COVID-19: Caused by the 2019 coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2.
- Flu: Caused by infection with influenza viruses—different strains circulate each year. The current flu vaccination protects against four of these strains.
- COVID-19: Many people with the coronavirus do not feel sick or have any symptoms at all, but can still transmit the virus to others. COVID-19 can sometimes cause a person to suddenly lose their sense of taste or smell.
- Flu: Not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Flu does not typically affect ones sense of taste or smell.
- COVID-19: There is not currently a vaccine for the coronavirus.
- Flu: A vaccine is available and effective in preventing and/or reducing the severity or duration of the flu. It is especially important to get vaccinated for the flu this year.
- COVID-19: There have been over 6.55 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the US since January 2020, and 194,545 deaths as of September 15, 2020. Complications include long-term damage to the lungs, heart, kidneys, brain, and other organs after a severe case of COVID-19.
- Flu: From October 2019 to April 2020, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates there were 39 to 52 million cases of the flu in the US, with 24,000-62,000 deaths. Flu complications can include inflammation of the heart, brain or muscles, and multi-organ failure. Both flu and COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia.