COVID-19 and flu (Influenza) are contagious respiratory illnesses caused due to viruses. Both are two different viruses. Flu is caused due to influenza virus whereas COVID-19 is caused by coronavirus. Corona virus is highly contagious and spreads easily as compared to influenza virus. COVID-19 causes serious illness. It stays longer inside the body or on the surface and may not show its existence for longer period. Since some of the symptoms of covid and flu are similar, it is very hard to tell the difference unless an individual has confirmed diagnosis. Here are some similarities and differences between COVID-19 and flu according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Similarities: Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:
- 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
Flu: Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, including common signs and symptoms listed above.
COVID-19: Covid-19 seems to cause more serious illnesses in some people. Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19, different from flu, may include change in or loss of taste or smell.
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
How long it takes to spread the virus: Normally people with flu take one day to spread the virus whereas people with Covid-19 take two days before the actual symptoms surface.
COVID-19 has been observed to have more superspreading events and it is dangerously contagious than flu. This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.
If someone has COVID-19, they may be contagious for a longer period as compared to one having flu and 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.
Older children and adults with flu 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.
Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person to person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet). Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
It may be possible that a person can get infected by physical human contact (for example, shaking hands) or by touching a surface or object that has virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes.
Both flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 may be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms; by people with very mild symptoms; and by people who never developed symptoms (asymptomatic).
People at higher risk for Covid-19: People at higher risk as a result in severe illness and complications include:
- Older adults
- People with certain underlying medical conditions
- Pregnant people
- Small children
Complications due to Covid & Flu: Both COVID-19 and flu can result in complications, including:
- Respiratory failure
- Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs)
- Cardiac injury (for example, heart attacks and stroke)
- Multiple-organ failure (respiratory failure, kidney failure, shock)
- Worsening of chronic medical conditions (involving the lungs, heart, or nervous system or diabetes)
- Inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues
- Secondary bacterial infections (infections that occur in people who have already been infected with flu or COVID-19)
Additional complications associated with COVID-19 can include Blood clots in the veins and arteries of the lungs, heart, legs or brain and can damage all vital organs.
Treatment: People at high-risk of complications or who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 or flu should receive supportive medical care to help relieve symptoms and complications.
FDA has approved and issued Emergency use authorization for Covid-19 Vaccines: Pfizer, Moderna, and Janssen. Pfizer and Moderna require two doses whereas Janssen is a single dose Vaccine. Other ways to slow the spread includes:
- Wearing a mask
- Keeping 6feet apart from others who do not live with you.
- Avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces
- Washing your hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitizer when soap and water is not available.
There are multiple FDA-licensed Influenza Vaccines produced annually to protect against the 3 or 4 flu viruses.