MountainView Hospital - October 01, 2020

Flu season is just around the corner, and with the current COVID-19 outbreak still prominent in our communities, we’re here to help you and your loved ones continue to stay safe and healthy! Let’s discuss the differences of influenza (flu) and the novel coronavirus.

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious illnesses but are caused by different viruses. However, both are respiratory illnesses and their similar symptoms may make it difficult to diagnose without official testing. Here are key differences the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified between the flu and COVID-19 based off the current available information:

Both the flu and COVID-19 can have signs and symptoms ranging from no symptoms to severe symptoms.

The common symptoms to look out for are:

  • Fever or feverish feelings/chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle pain or body aches
  • Headache
  • Some have experienced vomiting and diarrhea, though it is more common in children

Differences to note:

  • Flu can cause mild or severe symptoms
  • COVID-19 may also show signs of change in or loss of taste or smell

Symptoms for both the flu and COVID-19 will begin to show when one or more days have passed between a person becoming infected and when they start to experience and show symptoms. The key difference to know about COVID-19 is that symptoms may take longer to develop and appear compared to the flu. Typically, a person will develop flu symptoms anywhere from one to four days of infection. COVID-19 symptoms typically develop five days after infection, but the range varies from two days to 14 days after infection!

One should keep in mind that both the flu and COVID-19 can spread for at least one day before symptoms surface. Older children and adults with flu appear to be most contagious during the first three to four days of their illness but may remain contagious for about seven days. Infants and those with weakened immune symptoms can be contagious for even longer. If a person has COVID-19, they may be contagious for a longer period of time than if they had the flu.

The CDC has noted that the duration of spread of COVID-19 is still under investigation. However, someone can spread the virus from two days before experiencing symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after symptoms first appeared. If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it’s possible to remain contagious after testing positive, for at least 10 days.

As flu season approaches, it’s more important than ever during 2020-2021 to get vaccinated to protect you and your loved ones and to help reduce the severity of the flu strain. While currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, it’s crucial to continue following safety guidelines such as wearing a mask, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms for COVID-19 as listed above, please get tested immediately, or visit the nearest ER or call 911 if symptoms are severe. We understand going to the ER may seem scary during these uncertain times; however, it’s crucial you do not delay emergency medical care for time-sensitive conditions such as heart attacks, stroke, and appendicitis. To learn more about COVID-19 testing basics, visit our blog.