Covid-19 vs Flu: Is It Harder to Tell?


According to The Wall Street Journal, healthcare officials and doctors expect that this flu season “to be rough this year, and with it comes another challenge: Figuring out whether your symptoms point to the flu, Covid-19 or something else“.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both the Flu and Covid-19 are contagious respirotory illness caused by infection with influenza viruses.

“Compared to flu, COVID-19 can cause more serious illnesses in some people. COVID-19 can also take longer before people show symptoms and people can be contagious for longer.”

– The CDC Website

According to CDC, signs and symptoms of Covid-19 and flu vary in degree among individuals — from asymptomatic to severe symptoms. Some common and similar symptoms between Covid-19 and flu listed in the CDC website include: fever and feverish feeling, cough, shortness of breath, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, muscle pain, headache, change or loss of taste and others.

One of the key difference between the two is duration of their symptoms appearances. For Covid-19: 2 to 14 days after infection; for flu: 1 to 4 days after infection.

Other similarities and differences are are highlighted below.

Covid-19 and Flu Similarities

The John Hopkins Medicine describes the Covid-19 and Flu similarities as follows (in verbatim):

  • Both illnesses can cause fever, cough, body aches, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea (especially in children). Learn more about COVID-19 symptoms.
  • Both can result in pneumonia.
  • Both flu and COVID-19 can be asymptomatic, mild, severe or even fatal.
How It Spreads
  • Both the flu and COVID-19 spread in similar ways. Droplets or smaller virus particles from a sick person can transmit the virus to other people nearby. The smallest particles may linger in the air, and another person can inhale them and become infected.
  • Or, people can touch a surface with viruses on it, and then transfer the germs to themselves by touching their face.
  • 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.
  • Vaccines: In most cases, serious disease and death due to COVID-19 or the flu can be prevented by vaccines.
  • Mask wearing. Mask-wearing, frequent and thorough hand washing, coughing into the crook of your elbow, staying home when sick and limiting contact with people who are infected are effective safety precautions.
  • Physical distancingPhysical distancing limits the spread of COVID-19 and flu in communities.

“A COVID-19 vaccine will not protect you against influenza and vice versa. So in this season of respiratory illness, it’s critically important for everybody to get both types of vaccines to be able to protect themselves and their families,” explains Dr. Kristin Englundan infectious disease specialist at The Cleveland Clinic.

Precautions for Cold and Flu

The John Hopkins medicine website recommends the following precautions for the coming cold and flu season:

  • Get vaccinated for coronavirus. There are three FDA approved Covid-19 vaccines available widely.
  • Get a flu shot. Even if you usually skip a flu shot, this is the year to make sure you get one. It is safe for you to go to the doctor for a flu shot.
  • Care for yourself and your family with good nutrition, plenty of rest, proper hydration, regular exercise and stress management. And always stay home if you don’t feel well.
  • Continue protecting yourself from the coronavirus. Cleaning and sanitizing, wearing a face mask and physically distancing, it’s especially important now to keep up the good work — and encourage your family to do the same.
  • Stay hydrated. Hydration is essential when you’re sick, helping ensure that your organs and muscles are working properly.
  • Don’t forget the kids. If children in the family, get their flu shots (over 6 months old).

Many people with the flu or mild symptoms of COVID-19 can recover at home with rest and fluids. But some people become seriously ill from the flu or COVID-19 and need to stay in the hospital.

Mayo Clinic

According to Mayo Clinic, flu season in US commonly occurs between May to October and it expects both the Covid-19 and flu spread simultaneously.

Mayo suggests people to take above described prevention measures which may help to healthy and reduce your risk of becoming ill with COVID-19 or the flu.

Related Post
Coronavirus-19 vaccination watch

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID vaccination tracker page (as of October 5, 9 a.m.) 479,356,915 doses have been distributed and 397,718,055 doses administered. According MDH COVID-19 Response vaccine data (as of October 3) a total of 6,504-618 doses of Covid-19 (Pfizer & Moderna) vaccines have been administered in Minnesota. According to the MDH latest tally (as of October 5) the confirmed COVID-19 cases in Minnesota are 725,451 (out of 12,719,962 tested) with 8,203 deaths.