COVID-19 is not the flu, and the argument that the two are similar is both nonsensical and harmful. The two are both respiratory illnesses that show similar symptoms, but COVID-19 is much worse than the flu. In this article, we will examine how the two are alike, and how they differ.

Similarities

  • How it’s spread
    • Both the coronavirus and influenza are spread through respiratory droplets. That means you can get the illness if you come in contact with particles expended from the mouth or nose of someone who is sick.
  • High-risk demographics
    • The elderly and immunocompromised are especially at risk when it comes to both influenza and the coronavirus. People with asthma and other respiratory issues are also likely to have a more difficult time than the average person when it comes to both illnesses, and can be at higher risk of contracting pneumonia. Smokers bear that same risk.
  • Symptoms
    • Flu: Fever, cough, fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, stuffy nose. Occasionally vomiting and diarrhea.
    • COVID-19: Fever, cough, fatigue. With the coronavirus many patients also experience shortness of breath that doesn’t exist with the flu.

Differences

  • Incubation period
    • The length of time between when the virus has been transmitted and when a sick person starts showing symptoms is a major reason why the novel coronavirus is so dangerous. The serial interval for the incubation period of influenza is three days; for COVID-19, it’s as long as two weeks. That means people could be carriers without showing symptoms, and go about their daily routines, spreading the virus everywhere they go.
    • The range of symptoms is important here, too. Some people may be COVID-19 positive but only have mild symptoms, so they think they’re fine and carry on as normal.
  • Number of infections
    • Right now, the number of people who have been infected by or died from influenza is much higher than those who’ve been affected by COVID-19. It’s important to note, however, that the number of coronavirus cases is skyrocketing every day. Just because the number of infections of COVID-19 is lower than those of the flu right now does not mean they will be in the future; and remember, coronavirus is much more deadly than influenza, so the number of people infected is more impactful.
  • Effect in Children
    • The World Health Organization says children are among the group most at risk for severe influenza. COVID-19 does not appear to be especially dangerous for children.
  • Vaccine
    • We have a vaccine for the flu. We do not yet have one for the coronavirus.

Prevention

  • Prevention of both influenza and the coronavirus is the same (except for the availability of vaccines).
    • The CDC recommends washing your hands as often as possible with soap and water, for at least twenty seconds. If you don’t have access to that, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel or spray in the meantime, and then wash your hands when you’re able.
    • Try to keep a six-foot gap between you and any other person, in case they are sick without realizing (or in case they are sick and didn’t care.)
    • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth. If you get a respiratory droplet from someone else on your hands, you can deliver the virus into your system by touching those areas. And if you are sick, you can spread the illness to someone else by getting droplets from your eyes, nose, and mouth onto your hands. If you do touch those areas, wash your hands afterward.
    • Always sneeze into your elbow or into a tissue. Wash your hands afterward.
    • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
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