It’s im­pos­si­ble to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween flu, COVID-19 with­out test

Arab Times - - SCIENCE -

NEW YORK, Sept 24, (AP): How can I tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween the flu and COVID-19?

It’s im­pos­si­ble to tell with­out a test. In­fluenza and COVID-19 have such sim­i­lar symp­toms, you may need to get tested to know what’s mak­ing you mis­er­able.

Body aches, sore throat, fever, cough, short­ness of breath, fa­tigue and headaches are symp­toms shared by the two.

One dif­fer­ence? Peo­ple with the flu typ­i­cally feel sick­est dur­ing the first week of ill­ness. With COVID-19, peo­ple may feel the worst dur­ing the sec­ond or third week, and they may be sicker for a longer pe­riod.

An­other dif­fer­ence: COVID-19 is more likely than the flu to cause a loss of taste or smell. But not ev­ery­one ex­pe­ri­ences that symp­tom, so it’s not a re­li­able way to tell the viruses apart.

That leaves test­ing, which will be­come more im­por­tant as flu sea­son ramps up this fall in the North­ern Hemisphere. Doc­tors will need to know test re­sults to de­ter­mine the best treat­ment.

It’s also pos­si­ble to be in­fected with both viruses at the same time, said Dr Daniel Solomon, an in­fec­tious dis­eases ex­pert at Brigham and Women’s Hos­pi­tal and Har­vard Med­i­cal School in Bos­ton.

Whether you get tested for one or both viruses may de­pend on how avail­able tests are and which viruses are cir­cu­lat­ing where you live, he said.

“Right now we are not see­ing com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion of in­fluenza, so wide­spread test­ing for the flu is not yet rec­om­mended,” Solomon said.

Both the flu and coro­n­avirus spread through droplets from the nose and mouth. Both can spread be­fore peo­ple know they are sick. The flu has a shorter in­cu­ba­tion pe­riod – mean­ing af­ter in­fec­tion it can take one to four days to feel sick – com­pared to the coro­n­avirus, which can take two to 14 days from in­fec­tion to symp­toms.

On av­er­age, COVID-19 is more con­ta­gious than flu. But many peo­ple with COVID-19 don’t spread the virus to any­one, while a few peo­ple spread it to many oth­ers. These “su­per-spreader events” are more com­mon with COVID-19 than flu, Solomon said.

Pre­vent­ing the flu starts with an an­nual flu shot tai­lored to the strains of the flu virus that are cir­cu­lat­ing. Health of­fi­cials would like to see record numbers of peo­ple get flu shots this year so hos­pi­tals aren’t over­whelmed with two epi­demics at once.

There’s no vac­cine yet for COVID-19, al­though sev­eral can­di­dates are in the fi­nal test­ing stages.

Pre­cau­tions against COVID-19 – masks, so­cial dis­tanc­ing, hand­wash­ing – also slow the spread of the flu, so health of­fi­cials hope con­tin­ued vig­i­lance could lessen the sever­ity of this year’s flu sea­son.

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