There are on average 12,200 hospitalizations and 3,500 deaths related to influenza (flu) each year in Canada. This season is very different from past flu seasons as there is the added complication of COVID-19. To access the most appropriate healthcare that gets you quickly back on the road to recovery, it is important to be able to tell the difference between these two infectious respiratory illnesses.
While both flu and COVID-19 share a lot of similar characteristics, they are in fact quite different.
The main difference between the two viruses is that flu does not normally cause shortness of breath.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
- Cough, difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Fever or chills
- Muscle ache
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Loss of taste or smell
With COVID-19, symptoms typically develop 5 days after initially being infected. However, they can appear as early as 2 days or as late as 14 days. The flu, by comparison, is much quicker with symptoms developing 1-4 days after infection.
How are they transmitted?
Both are spread when respiratory droplets containing the virus come into contact with a person via their mouth, nose, or eyes.
Which is more contagious COVID-19 or the Flu?
COVID is more infectious. On average an individual who has flu spreads the disease to another 1.3 people whereas for COVID this infection rate is 2-2.5.
Who is at higher risk of COVID-19?
Research indicates that the severity of the virus increases with age, so older adults are at greater risk. In the United States, 80% of deaths have been individuals aged 65+. Individuals with underlying medical conditions are also considered to be at higher risk. These conditions include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Chronic kidney disease
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Obesity (body mass index [BMI] of 30 or higher)
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
Which is more dangerous?
COVID has a higher chance of leading to a severe illness, such as pneumonia, or death. This could be attributable to the fact that a large proportion of society has an established degree of immunity to flu, whereas since COVID is new there is not yet any level of existing immunity.
Current research from the WHO shows that approximately one in every five individuals who contract COVID-19 becomes seriously or critically ill.
If you are unsure whether you may have COVID-19 or the flu please speak to your doctor. In support of social distancing, an online doctor’s appointment may be your preferred option at this time. There are many doctors available to help you at Tia Health.