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Coronavirus vs. the Flu: Important Facts and Differences

Now that it’s flu season, it’s crucial to understand both the similarities and differences between the common viral infection known as influenza and COVID-19. Although both illnesses cause similar symptoms and are categorized as respiratory illnesses, they are both caused by different viruses. 

This year more than ever, it is crucial that you get your flu shot to reduce the spread of influenza. A flu shot can help you minimize the risk of getting a double respiratory infection, build immunity and avoid unnecessary coronavirus testing.

To help you stay safe this season, here is everything you need to know about coronavirus vs. the flu – from important facts and symptoms to preventive methods. 

What is COVID-19?

What is COVID-19?

According to the CDC, COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus disease 2019) was first identified in Wuhan, China. COVID-19 is an illness caused by a virus that is spread from person to person, and has spread throughout the world this year. And it’s important to note that the virus which causes COVID-19 is a new kind of coronavirus that differs from that of the common cold. From wearing face masks in public to long stretches of quarantine, and practicing social distancing, people throughout the world have found new ways to adjust to the pandemic. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Fatigue, aching muscles, headache, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, cough, diarrhea

Symptoms of COVID-19 can range from none at all, to mild or severe. Among the most common symptoms, many may appear between 2 to 14 days after exposure. To better protect yourself and the ones you love, it’s important to stay up-to-date on the coronavirus. Although you may already know the signs and symptoms, here is an updated list of symptoms from the CDC:

  • 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

Severe symptoms may occur in people who are older or living with chronic medical conditions and may require hospitalization. Seek immediate medical help if you or a loved one exhibits any of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • New confusion
  • Inability to wake or stay awake
  • Bluish lips or face

How can I stay safe and prevent spreading?

An elderly man wearing a mask is seen pumping hand sanitizer into his hand

Unlike the flu, there is no vaccine yet and no outpatient treatment for COVID-19 beyond supportive treatment, such as resting and staying hydrated. The best way to prevent spreading is to avoid any possible exposure to the virus. Since the virus is mainly spread through person-to-person contact and respiratory droplets, it’s important to avoid close contact with people and keep yourself at least six feet away from others.

Wash your hands often, cover your mouth and nose with a mask when you’re around others, always cover your coughs and sneezes, clean and disinfect frequently, and be aware of any warning signs. If symptoms develop, follow the CDC guidance on what to do if you’re sick. Be sure to self-isolate if you are having symptoms or if you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

How can I stay up-to-date about the evolving COVID-19 situation? 

For the most up-to-date information, please consult the CDC for the full and latest Situation Summary.

What is Influenza (flu)?

A senior man is seen wearing a mask as he receives his flu shot

Influenza (more commonly known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Symptoms range from mild to severe. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year. To schedule a flu shot, contact your primary care provider. Iora patients can call their practice to schedule their flu shot if they haven’t done so already. 

According to the CDC, during the 2018-2019 flu season, there were approximately 35 million cases of the flu, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths in the United States.

What are the symptoms of the flu?

An older woman is seen coughing on the couch with orange juice and cold medications

Flu-related symptoms are often more severe and come on faster than similar symptoms caused by the common cold. Flu-related symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Achiness
  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Chest pain 
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headache

If you or a loved one are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call your primary care provider first. There are medications sometimes used for patients with signs of influenza or who are at high risk of complications from flu.  

I’m not feeling well/ I’m experiencing symptoms of COVID-19/Flu — can I come in today?

A person is seen on a video call with their doctor in bed

If you or a loved one have a cough, have traveled recently or been in contact with someone who has COVID-19, please call us before coming in. While we’ll be happy to assist you and ensure you receive the proper care, we also want to minimize the risk to other patients and team members. Please call in advance to consult a member of our care team over the phone.

How is Iora Primary Care helping to protect patients against COVID-19 and the Flu?

A doctor and patient are seen wearing masks as the doctor prepares to give a flu shot

Our top priority is to ensure the safety of our patients and team members by taking proper precautions and minimizing risk as much as possible. In addition to implementing safety measures within our practices, we have postponed all in-person events and classes at our practices in an effort to limit exposure and reduce risk of COVID-19 to our patients. We have a variety of virtual events and classes to keep our community connected while at home. 

In addition, we want to make sure you get your flu shot as safely as possible, so we have prepared options for our patients. We ask that you call ahead first so we know we can accommodate you. If you are showing no signs or symptoms of the flu or COVID-19, and there are opportunities or locations for you to safely receive your flu vaccination now, such as a pharmacy in your community, we do encourage this option.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19 and Iora’s response to the pandemic, visit our Coronavirus FAQ’s.

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