Flu vs. COVID-19: How to Tell the Difference
Influenza (the flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses that can affect your lungs and breathing. Although the symptoms can be similar, the two illnesses are caused by different viruses, and a COVID-19 infection is potentially more serious. To ensure proper treatment, it is important to know the difference. Currently, the only way to confirm a diagnosis is to see a physician who can provide appropriate testing, such as a nasopharyngeal swab.
The flu and COVID-19 are similar in that both viral infections:
- Primarily spread when virus-containing respiratory droplets become airborne after an infected person coughs, sneezes, or speaks, and the droplets are then inhaled by an uninfected person
- Also spread when an uninfected person touches a surface that is contaminated with virus-containing respiratory droplets, then touches his or her face
- Can cause fever, fatigue, body aches, coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea
- Can cause symptoms that range in severity from mild to critical
- Can lead to pneumonia in advanced cases
- Do not respond to antibiotic treatment, which is only effective for treating bacterial infections
- May require hospitalization and the use of a ventilator in severe cases
- Can be prevented with social distancing and frequent handwashing
Unlike the flu, COVID-19:
- Cannot be prevented with a vaccine (development is in progress)
- Can cause a sudden loss of taste or smell
- Cannot be treated with an antiviral medication to alleviate the symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness (research is in progress)
- Can cause serious complications, such as long-term damage to organs throughout the body, including the lungs, heart, kidneys, and brain
The Bottom Line
The COVID-19 situation continues to evolve. Because the illness is caused by a new virus, the vast majority of people have not yet acquired immunity to it, and an effective vaccine may still be months away. Scientists and clinicians continue to learn more about COVID-19, which is currently thought to have a significantly higher mortality rate than that of most flu strains.
Medella Urgent Care continues to be available to meet your urgent care needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to our full range of urgent care services, we’re pleased to offer COVID-19 genetic testing, COVID-19 antigen testing, and COVID-19 antibody testing at both of our clinics serving residents of Magnolia and the Vintage Park/northwest Houston, TX, areas. Contact us or stop by today to learn more. We are open every day during extended hours, and we do not require appointments.