COVID-19 vs. the Flu: What Is the Difference?

COVID-19 vs. the Flu: What Is the Difference?

Jul 01, 2020

The COVID-19 disease has become a household name, which puts fear into everyone’s hearts and minds. It gained fame due to how quickly it spread around the world since its discovery in Wuhan city, China.

It felt like almost overnight, this disease caught on globally, bringing both business and travel to a grinding halt as the government tried to curb its spread among our citizens.

The healthcare system was not left out of its brunt either; it was overwhelmed with the large number of people who needed medical assistance due to the disease. At any given time, hundreds of people are rushing into an emergency room near you or looking for urgent care in Waco, trying to fight for their lives.

COVID- 19 manifests itself as a respiratory illness that is quite similar to the flu. It took doctors and scientists a few weeks to distinguish between the two illnesses, as both diseases have the same means of transmission and share some key symptoms.

This similarity between the flu and COVID-19, generated some confusion when the pandemic first broke out early this year. Patients who had COVID-19 mistook it for the flu. Some patients did not seek any medical assistance because they assumed they were dealing with ordinary flu.

To tell the difference between COVID-19 and influenza (flu), we must understand both infections and how they behave.

What Is COVID-19?

The COVID-19 first broke out in a seafood market in Wuhan city, China, around late December 2019. It has been discovered to be a respiratory illness caused by a specific strain of coronavirus known as the SARS-CoV-2.

Researchers and scientists believe its origin can be traced to infected animals. Since then, it has been spreading through contact, mainly with infected people or contaminated surfaces.

It has an incubation period of about 2-14 days, and its symptoms set in gradually.

Some of the common symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Respiratory issues
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Body aches

What Is the Flu?

Also known as the seasonal flu or influenza, this disease is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus and affects the throat, nose, and lungs.

The strains of influenza that are responsible for the outbreaks we see seasonally are the type A and B. Type A is more predominant and is the cause of the seasonal flu epidemics we handle each year in our emergency room in Waco.

Here are some of the common symptoms linked to the flu. These symptoms set in rapidly:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Chills
  • Loss of appetite
  • cough

Differences Between the Flu and COVID-19

Let’s look at how we can tell apart these two respiratory illnesses:

  • The Causes

COVID- 19 is caused by a strain of the coronavirus, specifically the SARS-CoV-2, with its origin linked initially to contact with an infected animal. The flu, on the other hand, is caused by the influenza virus. The influenza virus responsible for most of the seasonal outbreaks is the type A strain.

  • Incubation Period

The incubation period of flu is between 1-4 days, while that of COVID-19 stands at between 2-14 days. Influenza has a shorter median incubator period and serial interval. This means that with flu, the symptoms tend to manifest faster, and because flu also has a shorter serial interval, it spreads more quickly than the coronavirus.

  • Reproductive Number

The reproductive number refers to the number of secondary infections that can be linked to a single patient. In influenza, the reproductive number stands at 1.3, while for COVID-19, it stands at 2-2.5.

This means that the coronavirus is more infectious and will tend to infect more people than influenza would. This could help explain the high number of patients we have been experiencing in our ER near you or urgent care near you.

  • Transmission

Both COVID-19 and the flu are transmitted through droplets and coming into contact with infected persons or contaminated surfaces. However, COVID- 19 can spread through airborne transmission, unlike influenza.

  • Treatment

Currently, there is no known treatment for COVID-19; no antiviral drugs are available to treat it. We mostly deal with the symptoms as they manifest differently in patients and let the illness run its course.

However, influenza has antiviral treatment options that can be prescribed to help patients fight against the infection. Other than this, you could opt to get a flu vaccine at our urgent care facility in Waco, to protect you against the seasonal flu outbreaks.

Every one of us has to take a proactive role in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Follow all the guidelines issued to protect you and your family against this pandemic. Contact us at Express ER (Waco), for any guidance or medical assistance you may need regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

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