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What's The Difference Between Coronavirus And The Flu?

With Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading around the world and rates of infections and deaths continuing to climb, lots of people have been wondering – what’s the difference is between Coronavirus and the flu (influenza)?

There are clear similarities: both are respiratory viruses whose primary symptoms include a fever and a cough.  However, there are important differences as well. 

Here’s what you need to know about the difference between Coronavirus and the flu.

There’s a vaccine for influenza, but not for Coronavirus.

Every year, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) tracks strains of influenza that are traveling around the globe and tries to predict which four strains are most likely to hit the U.S. during our cold and flu season.  They use that information to formulate that year’s flu shot.  This is why you need a flu shot every year -- because each year, the strains included in the flu shot are slightly different.

Ideally, the flu shot will prevent you from getting the flu.  But if you do get the flu, the flu shot can make your symptoms less severe and decrease the length of the illness.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a vaccine for the Coronavirus yet.  While the flu shot doesn’t protect against the Coronavirus, it’s still important to get the flu shot because it can protect you from the flu, which can mimic symptoms of Coronavirus and make the diagnosis less clear.

Mortality rates are higher in Coronavirus (COVID-19) than the flu.

From the data we have so far, COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate (i.e., it’s more deadly) than influenza. With influenza, an average of 0.1% of patients who contract the infection will die from it.  Among people who have contracted COVID-19 in mainland China so far, an average of 2.3% have died.  That means, based on the information we have so far, COVID-19 is at least 20 times more deadly than influenza. 

There’s no antiviral medication for Coronavirus.

One of the major differences between Coronavirus and influenza is that there are specific medications that treat influenza, whereas there isn’t a specific treatment for Coronavirus.

Patients who have influenza can be treated with an antiviral medication that helps resolve the infection and reduces secondary complications like pneumonia. It’s most effective if it’s started within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.

Since there’s no antiviral medication available to treat Coronavirus, the focus is on supportive treatment, including pain and fever control, and I.V. hydration.  In severe cases of both influenza and Coronavirus, patients can also be intubated and placed on a ventilator to assist with their breathing.

We’re still learning how Coronavirus is transmitted.

Influenza is primarily a respiratory infection that’s transmitted via respiratory droplets.  When an infected person coughs or sneezes, aerosolized droplets are released into the air, and can infect the respiratory tract of anyone nearby who inhales the virus-contaminated droplets. 

Coronavirus is also commonly transmitted via respiratory droplets and by touching infected surfaces.  However, there is data to suggest that it could be transmitted in other ways.  Researchers are studying patients who may have been infected via fecal-oral transmission. They’re also studying how infected patients who have no known contact with COVID-19 patients or infected surfaces may have contracted the infection.

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At GoHealth Urgent Care, we’re open seven days a week to care for you.  We offer flu shots, rapid flu testing and chest X-rays at all of our locations. Click below if there’s anything we can do to help you feel better today:

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