Most symptoms of the two diseases are so similar that without a test, you won’t know for sure which illness you have contracted.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), both influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses and can have varying degrees of symptoms.
Common symptoms that COVID-19 and the 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
However, there are some key differences between the flu and COVID-19.
The CDC says coronavirus seems to spread more easily than the flu and causes more serious illnesses in some patients. People who have COVID-19 are contagious for a longer period of time and it can also take longer for symptoms to present themselves.
Other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 that differ from the flu include change in or loss of taste or smell.
Another important difference between the two diseases is there is a vaccine to protect against flu.
Local health experts, along with those at the CDC, say this year it is more important than ever to get a flu shot.
“Going into fall, we’re really worried about people having flu and COVID symptoms and being able to differentiate between those two. If people get their flu shot we can keep that low. We saw in Australia during their winter they had a very mild flu season because they got high levels of vaccination and social distancing,” said Andre Heffron, Flu Clinic Supervisor at Cuyahoga County Board of Health.
Getting a flu shot early will not only help protect you from the flu, but Heffron says it can also help doctors narrow down your illness. This is beneficial because the health system could become easily overwhelmed if both the flu and COVID-19 both surge this year.
“It’s really important get vaccinated so we can protect those around us,” Heffron said.
Last flu season, 50 people died from influenza in Cuyahoga County. Since March, 667 people have died from COVID-19 in the county.
Health experts encourage citizens to take precautions, like getting a flu shot, to maintain their health and prevent the spread of both viruses.
Several Northeast Ohio counties are holding flu vaccination clinics. For Cuyahoga County’s vaccination clinic, click here. For information about the surrounding counties, check your county health department’s website.