The Flu vs COVID-19

As we enter flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between the two. While they may be caused by two different virus strains, each can bring on similar symptoms including fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, headaches, difficulty breathing, body aches, and fatigue. The severity of symptoms will differ from person to person. One indicator that you may have COVID-19 is that it can cause a person to lose the ability to smell and/or taste. Should you be experiencing any of these symptoms, you should seek medical assistance for further testing to determine what you are suffering from.

A person can carry either virus and show no symptoms at all. As you may have heard, this is called being asymptomatic. This does not mean that you cannot transmit either virus, however. According to the CDC, it is possible to transmit the virus at least one day before showing any symptoms. If you become infected with the flu you can be contagious up to seven days after the first infection. For COVID-19, it is possible to be contagious for at least ten days after your symptoms first appear if they appear at all.

While we still have a lot to learn about COVID-19 and how it spreads, it is generally known that, like the influenza virus, the most common transmission method is through water droplets in the air caused by coughs, sneezes, or even general talking. This is why social distancing and mask-wearing have been in the spotlight during the pandemic as a responsible practice to avoid the virus’ spread.

Both the flu and COVID-19 can spread from touching a surface and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. While transmission rates through this method with COVID-19 are not known, it is important to wash your hands and disinfect high-traffic surfaces frequently to prevent the further spread of either virus.

Even if you have gotten both doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you should still take precautions to keep you and those around you healthy (wear a mask in public places, wash your hands frequently, etc.). As of this writing, COVID-19 booster vaccines are available and you should get one if you are six months or more out from your original second dose.

Influenza does have a vaccine and we recommended that you get your flu shot every year to help protect yourselves and others from influenza. Even if you still get sick after receiving a flu shot, your symptoms will be less severe, and your recovery time will be faster. Read more about the benefits of the flu shot here.

And yes, you can get a flu shot after receiving your COVID-19 vaccines.

In severe cases of influenza and COVID-19, complications can occur. These can include respiratory failure, organ failure, pneumonia, fluid in the lungs, and more. As stated above, we are still learning about COVID-19 and the damage it can do to the body, but you should seek emergency medical attention if you experience troubled breathing, confusion, chest pain, or an inability to wake or stay awake. COVID-19 has also been shown to cause Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C).

With COVID-19, we do not know when things will go “back to normal.” They may never. We may end up having to get yearly COVID-19 vaccinations as we do with influenza. Right now, there is a lot to speculate on and we are learning more about COVID-19 every day.

In the meantime, continue to practice social distancing and good hygiene habits to help prevent the spread of both the flu and COVID-19. If you are experiencing any flu-like symptoms, call your medical provider and speak with them about the next steps you should take.


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