Flu vs. COVID-19: What You Need to Know

We’ve all seen the responses in social and mainstream media that tout, “COVID-19 is just like the flu.” Health officials have a different view. It’s true; the numbers showed that the flu was much more prevalent and dangerous in the beginning. But just shy of a year later, the devastation left by the virus surpassed the flu. And it’s far from being over. The flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that can be hard to tell apart. Thankfully, diagnostic testing and learning the differences can help you understand what you need to know about both.

Alike, But Different

Aside from being viruses, both cause respiratory issues and other similar symptoms. Some of the common symptoms of both are body aches, fever, chills, breathing difficulty, fatigue, and more. As time progresses since the first reporting, differences continue to appear. They include:

  • COVID-19 is caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2, while the flu is from influenza A and B viruses.
  • In some cases, COVID-19 can cause the loss of the sense of smell and taste. This is not a typical symptom of the flu.
  • Flu symptoms typically appear within 1-4 days after infection, while COVID is 2-14.
  • COVID-19 appears to spread faster than and is more contagious than the flu.
  • Severe complications and mortality rates are higher with COVID-19.
  • To date, in the U.S., more than 290,000 people have died of COVID-19.
  • For comparison, for the 2019-2020 flu season in the U.S., about 38 million people had the flu, and about 22,000 people died of the flu.

What You Need to Know 

COVID-19 is a new virus, which means we are still learning. Treatments, detection methods, and therapeutic approach standards are still largely under development. One vaccine has Emergency Use Authorization granted by the FDA, and an antiviral has approval for treating COVID-19. The flu has established vaccine protocols and standards of care for managing the various severity of symptoms.

The flu season for our nation runs from October to May. COVID-19 is still very prevalent, increasing the possibility of getting both viruses at the same time. Getting your annual flu vaccine can help prevent this scenario by protecting you against the flu, and health leaders highly recommend this season.

The influenza virus was discovered in 1933 and had a treacherous history that claimed more than 50 million lives. Thanks to clinical research studies and their participants, enormous strides have been made, increasing what we know about the flu virus. The information learned from studies paves the way for improvements in the prevention, detection, and treatment of illnesses like the flu and COVID-19.

To learn more about how you can join one of our enrolling studies for cold and flu-like symptoms, call us at (407) 658-0966. Interested applications can also find additional study details on our website.




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