With flu season right around the corner, the Health Department would like to offer a bit of guidance for determining the difference between influenza (Flu) and COVID-19.

Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2). Since this is a new virus, there is no vaccine available and we are still learning about it.

Influenza epidemics are caused by influenza viruses A and B. The viruses causing influenza are well studied and a flu vaccine is widely available. The flu vaccine changes yearly based on any changes in the virus from year to year.

Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. There is still a lot that is unknown about COVID-19 and the virus that causes it. This article compares COVID-19 and flu, given the best available information to date.

Both COVID-19 and flu can have varying degrees of signs and symptoms, ranging from no symptoms (asymptomatic) to severe symptoms. Common symptoms that COVID-19 and flu share include:

• Fever or feeling feverish/chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue (tiredness)

• Sore throat

• Runny or stuffy nose

• Muscle pain or body aches

• Headache

• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults

While all the above symptoms may be experienced if a person has the flu, people with COVID-19 have reported a wider range of symptoms — ranging from mild symptoms to severe illness. These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure to the virus.

People with these symptoms may have COVID-19:

• Fever or chills

• Cough

• Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing

• Fatigue

• Muscle or body aches

• Headache

• New loss of taste or smell

• Sore throat

• Congestion or runny nose

• Nausea or vomiting

• Diarrhea

The list of COVID-19 symptoms continues to grow as we learn more about this new virus. For continuing updates on COVID-19 symptoms visit the Center of Disease Control at www.cdc.gov.

Both flu virus and the virus that causes COVID-19 may be spread to others by people before they begin showing symptoms. It is possible to spread the viruses that cause both the flu and COVID-19 for at least one day before experiencing any symptoms. If a person has COVID-19, they may be contagious for a longer period of time than if they had flu.

Both COVID-19 and flu can spread from person-to-person, between people who are in close contact with one another (within about six feet). Both are spread mainly by droplets made when people with the illness (COVID-19 or flu) cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.

While COVID-19 and flu viruses are thought to spread in similar ways, COVID-19 is more contagious among certain populations and age groups than flu. Also, COVID-19 has been observed to have more super-spreading events than flu. This means the virus that causes COVID-19 can quickly and easily spread to a lot of people and result in continuous spreading among people as time progresses.

Prevention during the upcoming flu season is more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wear a face covering, stay out of large crowds, stay social distanced when you must be in any public space, wash your hands frequently and keep your hands away from your face. Most importantly, get a flu shot! Call the Health Department at 740-342 5179 for information on our current process for receiving any vaccinations.

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you safe where you live, work and play. Contact us at 740-342-5179, visit our Facebook page or our website at perrycountyhealth.info.

Deborah Raney is the Director of Health Education at the Perry County Health Department and is a weekly contributor to The Perry County Tribune.

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