Is it Flu or COVID-19?

Is it Flu or COVID-19?

Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses with very similar symptoms. However, they are caused by different viruses. Flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses; there are two main types – Types A and Type B. These viruses are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including death. It is important to note that flu is different from a cold; it usually comes on suddenly. For more information on flu, click here.

COVID-19 infection is caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2.  There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it; research is still ongoing. For more information on COVID-19, click  here.

Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics and have varying degrees of signs/ symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe. It is possible to have flu, as well as other respiratory illnesses, and COVID-19 at the same time. Moreover, based on the similarities of symptoms, it will be difficult to tell the difference between infections; therefore, further testing is warranted to help confirm a diagnosis.

Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID

 FLU COVID
SYMPTOMSFever or feeling feverish/chillsFever or feeling feverish/chills
CoughCough
Shortness of breath or difficulty breathingShortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Fatigue (tiredness)Fatigue (tiredness)
Sore throatSore throat
Runny or stuffy noseRunny or stuffy nose
Muscle pain or body achesMuscle pain or body aches
HeadacheHeadache
Possibly vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children than adults)Possibly vomiting and diarrhoea (more common in children than adults)
Added symptoms may include change in or loss of taste or smell.
HOW INFECTION SPREADSCan spread between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Can spread between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
Spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or talk. Spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness cough, sneeze, or talk.
A person can get infected by physical human contact (e.g. shaking hands) or by touching a surface / object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.A person can get infected by physical human contact (e.g. shaking hands) or by touching a surface / object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes.
May be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms, with very mild symptoms or those who are asymptomatic.May be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms, with very mild symptoms or those who are asymptomatic.
Is more contagious among certain populations and age groups than flu.
ONSET OF SYMPTOMSGenerally 1-4 days after becoming infectedTime range varies and may take longer than for flu, but is generally around 5 days after becoming infected. BUT
Symptoms can also appear as early as 2 days after infection and up to 14 days after infection.
HOW LONG SOMEONE CAN SPREAD THE VIRUSMost people are contagious for about 1 day before they show symptoms.
Older children and adults appear to be most contagious during the initial 3-4 days of their illness but many remain contagious for about 7 days.
Infants and people with weakened immune systems can be contagious for even longer.
A person may be contagious for a longer period.
Still under investigation.
It is possible for people to spread the virus for about 2 days before experiencing signs or symptoms and remain contagious for at least 10 days after signs or symptoms first appeared. If someone is asymptomatic or their symptoms go away, it’s possible to remain contagious for at least 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19.
APPROVED TREATMENTS IN SEVERE CASESPeople who are hospitalized with flu or at high-risk of flu complications are recommended to be treated with prescribed antiviral drugs There are currently no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to prevent or treat COVID-19. Studies are in progress.
VACCINEThere are several licensed flu vaccines produced annually to protect against the 3 or 4 flu viruses that are anticipated to circulate each year.Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. Researchers are working toward expediting the development of a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.
COMPLICATIONSPneumonia
Pneumonia
Respiratory failureRespiratory failure
Acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. fluid in lungs)Acute respiratory distress syndrome (i.e. fluid in lungs)
Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, nervous system or diabetes)Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, nervous system or diabetes)
Secondary bacterial infections (i.e. infections that occur in people who have already been infectedSecondary bacterial infections (i.e. infections that occur in people who have already been infected
Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissuesInflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
SepsisSepsis
Cardiac injury (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)Cardiac injury (e.g. heart attacks and stroke)
Most people will recover in a few days to less than two weeksAdditional complications can include:
•Blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain
•Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C)
PREVENTIONThe regular and continued practice of hand and respiratory etiquette is key to preventing infection from spreading; as is the need for physical distancing and use of face coverings as per recommended Public Health Guidance.The regular and continued practice of hand and respiratory etiquette is key to preventing infection from spreading; as is the need for physical distancing and use of face coverings as per recommended Public Health Guidance.

Additional Questions and Answers can be found here.

Whilst it is not possible to be completely certain,  scientists believe that flu viruses and the virus that causes COVID-19 will both be spreading this winter. 

Getting the flu vaccine this year is therefore highly advocated for anyone who has been advised to take it.